Questions linger as start of body camera pilot program nears
30 officers will be given body cameras in pilot program in July
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With the start of Jacksonville's pilot program for police body cameras nearing, many are still raising questions about the department's policies and how the cameras will be handled.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office test program will begin July 10 with 30 officers being equipped with body cameras that the officers will be allowed to turn on and off at their discretion. That number is down from the 40 to 60 officers Sheriff Mike Williams announced earlier this month would be given cameras.
The officers will test gear from several companies, and the numbers equipped with cameras will grow throughout the year, and in about 12 to 18 months, they could be used by the full force.
The ability to turn the cameras off is raising concerns among citizens, like Denise Hunt, who want to know what the rules will be for when the cameras can be disabled and what the consequences will be if those rules aren't followed.
“That is a tool. That will not solve the problem. The problem with transparency rests with us and the police,” Hunt said. “Body cameras won't solve the issue of police accountability, but it is an effective tool.”
The sheriff said supervisors will monitor officers with cameras to see if they are turning them off too often, but in some cases disabling the camera is required by law to protect confidentiality.
Tony Davis, director of police services at JSO, said the cameras could help with community trust.
“I think it will go a long way in helping to bridge that gap and rebuild those broken bridges where trust has been damaged,” Davis said.
Public defender Charlie Cofer also weighed in on the use of body cameras Thursday, saying the ability to turn the cameras off should not be a problem.
“I would hope they would be reasonable and direct to hopefully preserve privacy on the part of people,” Cofer said.
JSO decided that in addition to allowing officers to turn cameras on and off, officers will also be able to review the tapes before writing their official report of what happened.
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