Sarasota City Commission to consider police body cams

Editor & Publisher

Opinions are divided and the research points in mixed directions when it comes to the benefit of requiring body cameras on police officers. The City of Sarasota has a $250,000 placeholder in the current budget to obtain body worn cameras and will hear at Monday’s Commission Meeting an extensive presentation by the Sarasota Police Department.

Police Administrator Heather Robison wrote in a memo to City Manager Tom Barwin that, “All of the potential benefits of body worn cameras can quickly be eroded by poor planning and implementation failure.”

The number of law enforcement agencies using body cameras has increased to more than 50 percent when you count both local police departments and sheriff’s offices. In the region, Cape Coral, City of Tampa, Fort Myers, Gulfport, North Port, St. Petersburg as well as Punta Gorda are all utilizing body cameras.

Robison’s extensive memo and research found that a review of 70 empirical studies of body worn cameras found there was no statistically consistent effect on officer or citizen behavior or safety.

The report did cite some benefits in investigating complaints, community trust and the use of video in training.

The majority of studies show that officers wearing body cameras receive fewer reported complaints of Use of Force than those who do not wear body cameras.

Although the City Commission has been under pressure politically to use body cameras and it could help in litigation or investigative complaints, the cost could prove cumbersome. According to the research, many communities have dropped the programs after the mounting cost of compiling, redacting, storing and maintaining a video program.

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