New Florida Law: Police Departments Must Maintain Proper Protocols for Body Cameras
A new Florida law governing the use of body cameras by law-enforcement agencies has gone into effect, requiring top brass to establish guidelines for the training of officers and use of the devices, as well as the retention of recorded videos.
Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill introduced in August of 2015 and gained momentum two months later when an officer from the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department shot and killed 31-year-old Corey Jones. Nouman Raja, who was in plain clothes, approached Jones, whose vehicle was broken down on an Interstate 95 off-ramp, about 3 a.m. Six shots were fired by Raja.
The law has the blessing of Florida Police Benevolent Association President John Rivera.
“There are so many questions pertaining to procedures, proper use, maintenance, data storage and training that need to be addressed before body camera programs are started,” Rivera told The Palm Beach Post. “There must be guidelines so that everyone knows the rules and to avoid this issue becoming a knee-jerk political issue.”
The department had no program in place for body cameras. Then, in January, the City Council unanimously voted to fund the equipment – a $262,296 budget appropriation to ensure every patrolling officer wears one.
“I’d love to bring Corey back, even if I didn’t know him,” Councilman Joseph Russo told the Sun Sentinel. “To lose him was an injustice. But I said that night I could do nothing to bring Corey back but the only thing I could do was to make sure his life didn’t go in vain. This is the beginning.”
Jones’ uncle also made an emotional statement at the meeting.
“It’s tough being here but at the same time sometimes you just have to put your personal feelings away and look at the big picture,” Terry Banks said, according to the Sentinel. “I just want to thank you all for being proactive. We miss him very much, but at the same time while we wait for answers we will continue to work for change.”
Jones was African-American. The officer, who since has been fired, is Indian-American.
The Palm Beach Gardens program will come online by summer. It follows in the footsteps of a similar, but much larger-scale, program being implemented by the Chicago Police Department. Using body cameras by the nation’s third-largest police force was prompted by the shooting death of a black teenager by a white officer in October of 2014.
HB 93 falls short of mandating municipalities to arm their officers with body cameras. Instead, it calls for a set of policies and procedures if such a program is in place. Among its clauses: “Ensure that all personnel who wear, use, maintain, or store body cameras are trained in the law enforcement agency’s policies and procedures concerning them;” “Retain audio and video data recorded by body cameras in accordance with the requirements of s. 119.021, except as otherwise provided by law;” and “Perform a periodic review of actual agency body camera practices to ensure conformity with the agency’s policies and procedures.”