St. Petersburg Police Officers are testing out new cameras mounted right on their guns. The cameras record everything once an officer pulls out their weapon.
The police department is one of only a few to test the new high tech tools that some believe will better hold them accountable.
Jeff Copeland is happy the city is doing more to bridge the gap between police officers and members of his community. He heads up the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which tackles barriers between those in blue and the rest of us.
“When you have a police department that people respect and people like, you can work together on different things and that's important,” Copeland explained.
One of the biggest tools for building respect is trust especially if an officer reaches for their holster.
“If you have your gun drawn, we want to know why,” Copeland added.
That question can now be answered with the help of new technology. Cameras are mounted right on St Pete police officer’s guns. Chief Anthony Holloway explains that once an officer pulls his or her gun "it will start recording immediately.”
Those recordings could pinpoint key information about why an officer decides to draw their gun and shoot.
The gun cams keep officers safe too. When an officer fires their gun, a GPS alert is sent to the police station so the other officers can jump in their cars and rush to the scene for backup.
Chief Holloway says there’s two other reasons he likes the gun cams:
- Unlike body cams officers don’t have to turn them on or off.
- They also don’t have as many visual obstacles, like an officer’s arms.
But there's a major drawback: That same area where the camera is mounted, leaves no room for a flashlight on an officer’s gun. St Pete Police already lost a K-9 handler officer in the line of duty when he was struggling to hold a flashlight and gun, and confront a suspect all at once.
The cameras also only capture up to a minute before the officer draws their gun.
Yet Copeland says the gun cameras get his community one step closer the ultimate goal. “The citizen can’t say the officer did this and the officer can’t say the citizen did that. Guess what? We’re all on candid camera. We’re all being held to the same level of accountability now," he added.
St Pete Police officers are still testing the new gun cams. Chief Holloway will decide whether to make them permanent in a few months, after meeting with officers, the community and the police union.
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