More Bay Area agencies eyeing body cameras - FOX 13 News

More Bay Area agencies eyeing body cameras

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

The Ferguson Police Department will now be using body cameras after the controversial shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown. The incident sparked outrage and riots in the community.

The donated cameras are part of an ongoing effort across the nation to improve policing.

Here at home, the Plant City Police Department is testing out the equipment. They showed us video of a man they said was resisting arrest, an incident that was caught with a body cam.

Dr. Wesley Jennings, associate professor of criminology at USF, is working on a study in partnership with the Orlando Police Department to see if the body cams are effective.

"It kind of actually stems from the use of the dashboard cameras," he explained, which have been widely used by departments across the country.

They've come in handy, especially in DUI cases or traffic stops, where the incident is right in front of the car. However, what happens when you walk away from the car? That's where body cams come in. They can be worn on the chest, shoulder, or right on the officer's sunglasses, which provides the best point of view.

"As soon as the officer initiates the camera, presses the button, it will actually back-record 30 seconds of film. There's no audio, but there's video," Dr. Jennings explained.

He added that a survey of the Orlando police officers taken just before the devices were introduced showed that two-thirds of them were in favor of the body cams.

"Say around 20 percent felt that the cameras would actually change their behavior, more than 40 percent felt that it would change the citizens' behavior," he said.

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor agreed. "It's something that will be a benefit to law enforcement. It will be a benefit to the community and I really see every officer wearing one of these cameras in the next five years."

She said her department would start test-driving 60 cameras in the next six months.

"Cost is a huge factor," she admitted.

The price tag for the cameras and hardware is about $1,000 per officer. It's one of the reasons the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said it will not be using the technology anytime soon.

However, St. Pete's new police chief, Anthony Holloway, added that the cost isn't the only concern. He said there were several questions about the rules and procedures surrounding the cameras.

"Can I record you in your home without your knowledge? I don't know the answer to that. So if I come into your home and turn on this camera, can I record you without asking your permission?" he wondered.

Meanwhile, the Temple Terrace Police Department has been using the technology for two years and the Sarasota Police Department just received a grant to add them as well.

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