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Push for body cameras comes with push for quick access to footage

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Posted at 7:34 PM, Apr 21, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — For law enforcement agencies that have body cameras, the next big question is access to the footage.

RELATED: List: Tampa Bay area law enforcement agencies using body cameras

Last year, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law with parameters on when body camera footage can be made public.

In Florida, a body camera recording, or portions of it, are exempt from the state's public records law if it is taken within someone's home, inside a facility that offers health care, mental health care or social services or is taken in a place "that a reasonable person would expect to be private."

State Representative Dianne Hart, D-Tampa, said making footage without delay is important.

RELATED: Polk County residents continue to press police about getting body cameras

“If it’s something that’s deadly, no matter where we are, it should be made public," Hart told the I-Team, saying it's about building trust. “There should really be no reason why you should not be able to get that footage right away. Especially if it’s a deadly use of force. Because if you don’t do that, then people are not going to trust you.”

RELATED: 'I don't trust them' | Cell phones empowering public as push for police body cameras grows

Last summer, Cory Weckerle, of Black Lives Matter Tampa, said body cameras only work if the public can see the footage without having to wait months on end.

“Plenty of things are already being captured on camera — it’s more now about what we are going to do with the evidence," Weckerle said. “Not just in a timely manner for when, you know, the police department sees it best fit for them to release it to us. The public needs to see this when the situations are happening."

RELATED: Public can now request body camera videos from Tampa police

Under state law, a law enforcement agency must hold on to a body camera recording for at least 90 days.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, retention policies vary widely across the country. For example, in Tuscon, video is kept 180 days. In New Orleans, body camera video is kept for two years.

The following links are where you can request body camera footage from law enforcement agencies in Tampa Bay: