Body Cameras: Who has them, who doesn’t, and what’s standing in the way

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — New changes could be coming on how quickly policy body camera footage is released.

Tuesday, the State Attorney’s Office for the Fourth Judicial Circuit released a memo on body camera footage in officer-involved shootings.

“As in any investigation, ensuring the integrity of evidence is of paramount importance,” the memo states. “Witness accounts must be of their own accord and not influenced — either intentionally or unintentionally — by other evidence in the case. For these same reasons, in all OIS investigations involving BWC footage, a shooting officer is prohibited from viewing any BWC footage except for footage recorded by their own BWC.”

As of Wednesday, the Jacksonville’s Sheriff’s Office has not released any body cam footage related to an officer-involved shooting. Jacksonville City Council passed a resolution asking JSO Sheriff Mike Williams to work with the SAO to form a new policy on the issue.

Other local agencies do not have body cameras. Action News Jax found less than 50% of Florida law enforcement officers have them.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office told Action News Jax it does not participate in the program and has no plans to at this time.

There’s a new discussion about body-worn cameras in St. Johns County. The two candidates running for sheriff explained their stance on the topic to Action News Jax.

“I have been in favor of body cameras for many years and when I opened my campaign for Sheriff of St. John’s County,” Retired law enforcement officer Christ Strickland said. “I announced my plan to equip the deputies with body-worn cameras. It will provide transparency and video evidence of events as they transpire. The cameras will be worn by our deputies and as new technology is available to law enforcement, it will be assessed for use as well.”

“I am no adamantly opposed to body cameras. I want what’s best for my community. I want to hear what my community wants,” St. Augustine Beach Police Chief Rob Hardwick said.

Hardwick is the chief of an accredited agency, SABPD. Less than a third of agencies are accredited in Florida.

“In order to have transparency is simply being accredited, having a policy and procedure that you’re not afraid to use, have the men and women who are qualified to do the internal affairs investigations,” Hardwick said.

He also told Action News Jax his department has yearly meetings to discuss policies and procedures.