Body Cameras Bill Signed by Governor Rick Scott
Body Cameras Bill Signed by Governor Rick Scott-Recently, a bill signed into law by Florida Governor Rick Scott, now requires Florida police departments that have their officers use body cameras establish policies and procedures for the proper use, maintenance and storage of the cameras and the data they record.
The new law went into effect in March, when Governor Rick Scott’s signed HB 93, partially inspired by the Corey Jones shooting death October 18 by Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja, who was in plain clothes and not wearing a body camera.
The law does not require law enforcement agencies to use body cameras
It simply states that if they do, the agencies must first have policies in place, including rules for storing the audio and visual data that comply with Florida public records laws.
Although it’s to late for Corey Jones, after lawmakers passed the bill this month, Palm Beach Gardens Mayor Eric Jablin said the city’s police department already had adopted policies and procedures, and that the city planned to fully implement cameras in April after wrapping up a pilot program involving 10 officers.
These policies should be closely followed by the citizens of Florida
No doubt, body cameras are a good idea for both the police and the people they encounter, because in most cases they can settle disputes about both overly aggressive officers and false complaints made about an officer.
Two issues come to mind.
The first being we believe officers should have some discretion to disable these cameras. In most cases these cameras will be worn by uniformed officers, not under cover detectives. But even uniformed officers will on occasion, talk to a “confidential informant”. We can’t imagine an informant wanting to talk to an officer knowing a video is being made of the conversation.
The second and probably more important issue is when police enter your home by invitation.
If you’ve ever had the police come to your door you know in most situations they will ask you to come outside to speak to them. But on some rare occasions they may ask to enter, or you yourself might invite them in.
In those situations we believe that not only the police, but also the home owner or renter should have some say about the body cameras being disabled.
None of us at South Florida Corruption, and we can’t imagine to many disagreeing, would want police walking around our homes taking video for any reason. Especially with there being a good chance of the video becoming available to the general public and press.
In fact, videos like that could be used by criminals to target these homes, now that they can see what you have and a layout of the interior of your home.
In order for body camera programs to be successful, the vast majority of videos recorded have to be available to the public at large. If not, we would then have to rely on the police agency involved to decide which videos are going to be released, and that would defeat the whole purpose of transparency.
Any discretion given to an officer to disable a body camera, should be defined by a clear and coherent policy with some sort of disciplinary action for violations.
This is maybe better handled by the Florida Legislature than the individual police agencies. Without a state statute addressing this, we could end up with several different policies even within the same county.
The whole idea behind body camera programs is transparency in law enforcement, so there should be very few situations where an officer, or other person should be allowed to disable them.
Senators voted 37-0 to send HB 93 to Scott’s desk. It also unanimously passed the House.