Push for body cameras after teen shot by officer

Kendre Alston, 16, killed by officer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In the wake of a 16-year-old being shot and killed by police this week, a renewed push for officers to wear body cameras is being made.

The small cameras are popping up in police departments all over the U.S. And there have been reports that the number of complaints against officers in these departments have dropped.

Gil Smith, a retired JSO officer said he sees the benefits of having police officers wear body cameras. For instance, a body camera could help the officer if he or she had to make a split-second decision. But Smith also said some questions are raised.

Dozens gathered Sunday night near 45th and Moncrief to remember Kendre Alston. Last week, Alston was shot and killed by an officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. They said Alston pointed a gun at the officer. In the days since his death, some people in the community have spoken out, calling for JSO officers to start wearing body cameras.

"Nationwide, there's been a reduction in excessive force complaints and complaints against an officer," Smith said. "If someone has a complaint against a police officer, a citizen says one thing, a police officer says another, the camera will give an unbiased view of exactly what happened."

But with the concept of a new gadget comes questions about how and when they should be used. Do they have to be on all the time? Could an officer be written up if he or she turned their camera off? Smith said one of his concerns is about using them at night. After all, a camera aperture can adjust to nighttime, a human eye is different. 

"You're looking at a night camera, where it's easier to see on the screen, but the human may not be able to pick up some of the things that a camera can pick up," Smith said. "People will question, why didn't the officer see that?"

In Jacksonville, it would cost about $3 million to outfit 1,500 police officers. That's a heavy cost, especially when the department is considering hiring more police officers. With a smaller budget, that's a tremendous cost.

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