Ruling requires sheriff to negotiate with union on body camera use

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sheriff Mike Williams could be forced to make some changes to the way his officers use body cameras after a state oversight commission ruled that the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office must agree with the local police union about everything from when the cameras are used to how the recordings will be used in disciplining officers.

The state Public Employees Relations Commission ruled that the JSO can keep its body camera pilot program up and running "as is," but as soon as possible, Williams will have to negotiate with the Fraternal Order of Police on how cameras will be used.

The commission said using the body cameras will have some effect on the terms and conditions of an officer's employment, so the policy on their use will have to go through the collective bargaining process.

The ruling is coming out after the pilot program began because the FOP didn't do the best job at explaining its concerns, the commission said.

Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Zona said the union's intention is not to derail the body camera program.

"We've been trying for a year. We don't want to negatively impact the sheriff's program," Zona said. "We're not against the cameras. We don't oppose them coming."

Zona said in the very near future, the union will formally ask the Sheriff's Office to come back to the bargaining table on this issue. Zona told News4Jax about some of the concerns the union wants to hammer out. 

"Discipline issues -- how they are used for discipline, the privacy issues and when they've got to turn them off and off and things like that," Zona said, adding that he expects the bargaining to go quickly and smoothly with the city and the sheriff.

The ruling will not only impact the JSO. Zona said it means, going forward, if any law enforcement agency in Florida wants to equip their officers with body-worn cameras, they must hash out the details with their local union first. 

News4Jax also asked Zona about any feedback he's heard about the pilot program from officers who are currently wearing the body camera. He said they volunteered to wear them against the FOP's advice, meaning before the rules could be agreed upon. But he said none of the officers had called with concerns at this point. 

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Joy Purdy co-anchors the 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts with Tarik Minor and the 11 p.m. weeknight newscasts with Kent Justice.