Area agencies begin deploying body cameras

Flagler County sheriff says cameras will revolutionize law enforcement

BUNNELL, Fla. – Since the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, earlier this month, more people are calling for law enforcement officers to wear body cameras to record interactions between police and citizens.

A department in California that deployed cameras in February 2012 says they have seen an 88 percent reduction in complaints against officers and use of force has fallen by 60 percent.

The Flagler County Sheriff's Office has issued the cameras to its deputies is using these cameras. 

"I believe the body cams will revolutionize law enforcement in this county as they have done in every other community," Sheriff James Manfre said.

Deputies use them when responding to serious incidents like shootings, home invasions, even routine traffic stops.  The video serves as helpful evidence in court.

"The national issue that is occurring in Ferguson, Missouri, is that we have an incident that, if it was videotaped, would have resolved this issue very quickly, whether the officer was justified for the use of force or not," Manfre said.

The Flagler County Sheriff's Office purchased 80 to 90 body cameras, and the $76,000 cost of was paid from revenue generated by a $5 per violation fee on citations issued in Palm Coast.

They can be worn on sunglasses, a headband, around the neck or on the shoulder.

Police at the University of North Florida have ordered six body cameras for its officers and hopes have them in use by fall.

Neither Flagler County nor UNF use dash-cams in their patrol cars.

"We just don't work in the cars very much," said UNF Interim Police Chief Bill Strudel. "We're mostly out amongst our community."

UNF President John Delaney, one a prosecutor himself, says use of body cameras is an experiment.

"I obviuosly think it's better to have more evidence of a situation than having less," Delaney said.

Members of the public have mixed reaction about police wearing body cameras, with some saying they're an invasion of privacy, others supporting their use.

"It keeps everyone honest, and if everyone's honest, we'll have a better society," said Nikki Norman.

"I think our rights are being taken away and I think it's giving them too much power over us," said Suzanne Musso. "I feel like we're almost becoming -- I hate to say this -- but a little bit Communist in a way."

Manfre said neither his deputies nor the public should fear the cameras.

"It will make our jobs easier, like DNA testing has done or Tasers have done," Manfre said. "Every law enforcement organization in the country should have these body cameras. It will create more efficiencies and it will protect our citizens' civil rights as well."