JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The situation in Ferguson, Missouri, has led some observers to question whether police should use wearable cameras or body cams when they interact with the public.
Police at the University of North Florida will be one of the few in Northeast Florida to use the technology when it is deployed next month. Interim Chief Bill Strudel told Action News the cameras would provide an unbiased look at interactions between police and citizens.
“I've always taught about officer safety but we never knew what really happened to people,” Strudel said. “We didn't know what happened because there was no one there to tell the story. Now those cameras are telling us things about these critical incidents.”
The chief of police in Daytona Beach told CNN an incident last year illustrates the benefits of the cameras. Community members were outraged when officers shot a former New York Giants running back, accused of holding his girlfriend hostage and threatening to stab her. The cameras revealed the true nature of the incident, the chief said.
Action News law and safety expert Dale Carson agreed the cameras can be a useful tool, but he warns it could have unintended consequences.
“The danger is we begin to rely on that instead of learning to cooperate and that's a key,” Carson said.
Another concern for departments is the cost. Just the small six-camera camera system planned for UNF will cost $7,000.
Action News checked with multiple agencies including sheriff’s offices in Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns Counties. None of them has plans to deploy the systems.
JSO and Nassau County cited budgetary concerns as the reasons why those cameras would not be used.
Officers will begin using cameras at UNF this fall. Officials are developing policies and procedures for the cameras and when they will be used.