91ºF

Florida police departments reconsider body camera purchases

File photo
File photo

TAMPA, Fla. – Two of Florida’s largest police departments said they would delay buying body cameras because of financial concerns spawned by the coronavirus outbreak.

Tampa police said that it would put on hold the purchase of more than 600 cameras that were supposed to have been acquired by the end of the year, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Across the bay, the St. Petersburg Police Department said that a body camera testing program has been delayed indefinitely, which in turn is postponing a decision by Police Chief to seek funding for hundreds of cameras.

The city of Tampa had already signed a five-year, $5 million contract to purchase more than 600 blue-tooth activated cameras that would have been distributed by the end of the year to every uniformed officer through the rank of corporal.

Of that cost, about $1 million would have come from this year’s budget, Police Chief Brian Dugan said.

However, the department is proceeding with a $500,000 purchase of Tasers.

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said the body cameras builds trust with the community, but could not justify the spending amid the economic slowdown.

The delays are the latest setbacks in a region where large law enforcement agencies have lagged behind much of the state and country in outfitting their personnel with cameras.

The coronavirus pandemic has city officials worried that revenue sources such as property and sales taxes will take a hit, so the city is scrutinizing every expenditure, said Dennis Rogero, the city’s chief financial officer.

Dugan said the city will probably revisit the decision in September, when officials have a better idea of the city’s financial situation.