Deputies in Pinellas County will soon wear body cameras across the board.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says new technology and overwhelming demand from the public for them encouraged the decision to purchases the devices.
“The community wants it, everybody that I’ve talked to from across section wants it and so that’s what we should Do, we should listen to the community,” said Gualtieri. “The lens and the range on the camera and what we capture is dramatically improved, the integration with other systems is dramatically improved, the trigger-points on the camera, the automatic activation of the cameras, there’s so much that’s changed.”
About 30 deputies received the cameras Tuesday for a trial period which isn’t to decide if the department wants the cameras but to work out any issues before handing them out to the more than 800 deputies in the field.
The camera's will automatically turn on when a weapon is drawn.
He says right now, dash-cam video, and microphone packs on deputies do a good job to paint a scene more clearly with more than 17,000 downloads a month.
He says folks who want the body cameras for oversight purposes may not get everything they want from the devices.
“They think that these cameras are going to capture everything all the time and every minute, and they’re going to have access to everything that’s recorded, they’re not,” he said.
Under Florida Law, some recordings are confidential if it’s captured in someone's house or a facility that offers health or mental health care, or social services.
“There’s also a general provision there or any place that anybody expects their conversations to be private, that’s a very broad application,” said Gualtieri.
The cameras would cost about $3 million a year for 5 years, totaling about $15 million.
The funding needs to be approved by the board of commissioners. Gualtieri says all of the commissioners he has spoken with are on board and will likely ask them for the funding at the end of November or beginning of December. That money would be taken from the current budget which means the program would start right away.