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Lights, No Camera, Action – Police Body Camera Use In Tampa Bay

Seth Shapiro
By: Seth Shapiro
Jul. 26 2018

Over one year ago we wrote about the use of body cameras by local law enforcement agencies in our blog, “Your Next Interaction With Police May Be Video Recorded.”

Today, many of our local law enforcement agencies have still not adopted the technology and are refusing to do so.

Today, only the Pasco County Sheriff’s Officers and Temple Terrace police record police-civilian interactions on officer worn body cameras.

Still, Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Polk County sheriffs have gone on the record stating that they are against using body worn cameras on deputies.

While there are significant privacy issues at play, the potential check on police power and discretion may override those concerns for citizens.

Our firm has commented on the need for rules and expanded Florida Statutes needed to ensure consistent and fair use of body camera recordings.  That said, ignoring the technology opens up law enforcement to potential false claims and citizens to potential abuse of authority. Research has shown that use of body cameras may reduce police misconduct.

Local agencies continue to be concerned with cost and administration of body camera programs including the logistical hurdles of storing the video and responding to public records requests.

Some argue that the low rates of questionable shootings by police in the Tampa Bay area negates the requirement for body cameras.  Our firm disagrees. While body cameras are overwhelmingly useful in the most egregious circumstances, even common crimes such as obstruction or resisting a law enforcement officer could benefit from body camera footage.

Elected Pinellas – Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe also argues against body cameras stating that their field of vision is to narrow to have value as evidence.  Having viewed video evidence from body cameras from officers of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, this is not accurate. In one particular case, as defence counsel we were not only able to view video from the lead officer, but also from other officers on scene that provided an excellent record of the interactions with the defendant.  The field of view on the body camera was wide, much like today’s popular GoPro action cameras and the resolution was high definition. The video was not only useful to our firm as criminal defense counsel, but proved to be exculpatory and resulted in charges being dropped for our client.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco is a ardent supporter of body cameras for officers since they were adopted in 2015 in his office.

Body cameras work for both law enforcement and defendants.  They protect officers from unfounded complaints, but also squarely put officer conduct in the spotlight to ensure transparency and fair treatment of citizens under the law.

If you have been arrested whether or not you were video recorded with a body camera or dashboard camera in the Tampa Bay area including St. Petersburg, Tampa, Clearwater, Largo and the surrounding counties of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Manatee or Sarasota, call the Morris Law Firm for a strategy session on your case.  Call 727-388-4736, Option #1 for New Clients.