TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa City Council voted unanimously this afternoon to buy 650 body cameras for Tampa Police officers.
While coming on the heels of a weekend of civil unrest, the Tampa City Council and Tampa's Chief of Police made it clear that the decision to outfit 650 patrol officers with body cameras is a decision long in the making, and something they planned to do earlier this year.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the unknown future of the economy, the purchase was put on hold.
“Obviously we had to take a hard look at what we were purchasing, what we had purchased, and that’s when I recommended to the mayor that we just hit the pause button to figure out what was going on with that purchase,” said Chief Brian Dugan with the Tampa Police Department.
But Mayor Castor is making sure she holds true to the promise she made during her campaign, to add body cameras to Tampa Police's current fleet of just 60 body cameras.
“Mayor Castor has been able to juggle some different things and now we’re ready to move forward with the body cameras,” said Dugan.
The city is refinancing several bonds they currently have, which is freeing up millions of dollars in COVID-19 cash flow relief. Nearly one million of that is going to the purchase of the 650 body cameras.
“What we’re doing here today, is let’s look into the future at the challenges that could come up in this area and be proactive and not reactive,” said Council Member Luis Viera with the Tampa City Council.
It's all being done in an effort to increase transparency and trust between the Tampa Police Department and Tampa citizens.
“The landscaping of policing has changed dramatically in the last five days. If there’s a police officer in the City of Tampa that does not want a body-worn camera, then I suggest you turn your badge in, because we cannot have that anymore,” said Dugan.
Chief Dugan said the cameras will activate when a gun or taser is pulled, but they're also working to make them activate when lights on police cars are turned on.