Local group asks for St. Pete officers to wear body cameras

Posted at 4:26 PM, Oct 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-19 06:22:17-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A St. Petersburg group is asking the city council to consider outfitting every officer with a body camera.

Cellphone video of police officers tasing a man at a St. Petersburg gas station in March spurred a controversial push for body cameras in the city. But the witness who recorded it only started recording as the officers acted, giving no context to what happened prior.

Now, residents like Jeff Copeland and the National Christian League of Councils are asking city council leaders to consider body cameras on officers.

“The body cams, I think that it keeps everybody accountable — the citizens and the police officers,” Jeff Copeland said.

A pilot program testing 10 cameras, 9 on officers and 1 on the chief, was scheduled for August but it stalled after the technology began to glitch.

“Once we got everybody outfitted and we walked out the door, the camera had a life of its own,” Chief Anthony Holloway said.

Chief Anthony Holloway said the test is still scheduled to occur, hopefully, sometime in November.

It will place cameras on the body of the officer and can be activated manually or when an officer pulls his gun. It will also activate when the officer pulls out his taser and charges it. In those cases, the camera will automatically record starting from 30 seconds prior to that moment. Copeland said 30 seconds before the use force will add a lot of context.

“You are never going to have a perfect scenario. I mean, let’s be realistic. So I think once you pull it, it goes back 30 seconds, I think that is a great situation,” Copeland said.

While not against a permanent plan, Chief Holloway warned it would be costly — potentially millions of dollars.

“Is that money well spent on putting body cameras on the officer or should that money be spent on doing more for the community?” Chief Holloway asked.