The Fort Myers Police Department is set to issue 40 body cameras to its officers on March 25th.
News-press.com reports that the cameras will be issued after the select officers undergo a review of the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution. Approved for use by the Fort Myers city council last September, the cameras were initially set to be issued earlier but faced opposition from the Gulf Coast Police Benevolent Association, a labor union that represents some of Fort Myers’s officers.
“The union believes there’s a negative impact on the job,” said Chief Doug Baker, the Chief of Police at Fort Myers. “Although no one has been able to tell me there’s a negative impact, that’s what they are claiming.”
Matt Sellers, the president of the Gulf Coast Police Benevolent Association, said his organization isn’t opposed to the cameras per se, but believes the officers need better training in order to use them effectively.
“We’re looking for some comprehensive training, and when I say that, it’s a little more in-depth,” Sellers said. In addition to further training, Sellers wants the officers to receive a raise in pay for wearing the cameras. The police department and union will consider the raise during contract negotiations.
Sellers also recommends that the training itself should include more than just debriefing on the First and Fourth Amendments. He suggests that the officers should undergo up to 80 hours of training for anything from firearms and defense tactics to driving techniques.
Fort Myers’s current policy gives police officers discretion when recording on-duty for situations involving people who are uncomfortable saying anything on camera. Their policy also gives officers discretion for recording particularly sensitive situations such as sexual crimes.
“At this point, we would rather want to know when we have to have the cameras on,” Sellers said.
For his part, Baker welcomes the new cameras, as he feels it will improve relations between the police and the public, given the recent scrutiny police departments have faced from people concerned about abuse of power.
“I feel as chief, or the head of the organization, my responsibility is to look for things that enhance our department,” Baker said. “I really believe the transparency of these cameras are going to help accomplish that.”
“As a Law Enforcement Officer myself, I believe that wearing body cameras in general is a win-win for departments and the public” said Jubal Ragsdale, President of 10-8 Video, a company that offers both in car and police body cameras. “A study by the San Diego Police Department just released in March of this year revealed that for officers wearing body cameras complaints against officers fell over 40%, and use of force by officers fell over 46%.”
The cameras cost a total of $70,000. In addition, the department will have to pay $29,000 for four years for software updates and maintenance.