Sheriff's Office hopes to have body cameras by September

JSO anticipates issuing around 200 body cameras in the first quarter of 2019

By Allyson Henning - Reporter, Crystal Chen - Assignment editor/reporter, Joy Purdy - 5:30, 6:30 & 11 p.m. anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has unveiled a timeframe and update for deploying body cameras.

The agency is in the procurement phase to find single-unit body cameras for its officers.

News4Jax caught up with Sheriff Mike Williams during a neighborhood walk in the Hollybrook area Thursday evening. Williams was answering residents' questions and letting them know what the Sheriff's Office is doing to keep them safe, which included a timeline for the use of body cameras.

"We've done a pilot program that really identifies the kind of camera it is that we like and we want. Now we go through all the red tape, so to speak, of purchasing the camera," Williams said.

Three test phases have taken place, with the last one wrapping up in May. The officers who participated gave feedback on ease of use, user interface, video review functionality, device features and general policy insight.

Once the procurement phase is complete, JSO will use grant money to buy and deploy the cameras.

"We plan to start deploying the cameras, or putting them on officers, this quarter. So, September," said JSO Director Tony Davis, who oversees the camera program.

JSO anticipates issuing around 200 body cameras in the first quarter of 2019.  All officers wearing body cameras will be trained and tested. 

WATCH: 2017 Interview with Sheriff Williams on body cameras

Pilot program

The pilot program began last July with 30 officers of different ranks. It launched the use of Body Worn Cameras (BWC) in order to accomplish several objectives:

  • Enhanced accountability and public trust 
  • Provide additional evidence for criminal, civil, and traffic-related court cases
  • Serve as a tool to help officers detail a timeline while writing reports
  • Serve as a training device for officer safety and best practices
  • Provide an additional way to evaluate the communication between officers and people in the community by reviewing procedures and interactions.

From February through June 2017, JSO conducted six town hall meetings throughout the city and the Sheriff also held a city-wide meeting with the community to update the status of the body worn cameras.

READ MORE: JSO ready to test body cameras

Three test phases have taken place, with the last one wrapping up in May this year. The officers who participated gave feedback on: ease of use, user interface, video review functionality, device features, and general policy insight.

Policy

The sheriff’s office says the current policy involving the body cameras remains under review with the e Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) labor union.

There has been a lot of back and forth on when cameras should be on and when they should be shut off relating to privacy.

JSO says its officers will follow the initial policy released at the start of the program until an updated policy is approved.   

Budget

The Sheriff’s Office received a $997,000 grant last September to help with funding this year. No technology costs have been budgeted for fiscal year 2019.

JSO ssaid it will start budgeting these costs in fiscal year 20 once the grant money is gone.

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