SRSO deputies will begin training this month on how to equip themselves with the agency’s first-ever body cameras. All SRSO patrol deputies are expected to start wearing the devices sometime within the next several months.
Starting this summer, anyone who interacts with a Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office deputy on the job will be recorded on camera.
Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson and his staff reviewed body camera policies of other Florida sheriffs and Florida police departments to build their own “Body Worn Cameras” policy on how their agency will use its new tools.
“There were certain policies that we looked at and said, ‘Oh no, we’re not doing that,’” Johnson told the News Journal. “There were certain policies where officers had the ability to get the video and do stuff to the videos. But here, at our agency, deputies have to download the videos into the system, and once it’s downloaded, it is locked into the computer. Then it can’t be manipulated by command staff or anyone else. We can’t change anything. We can’t delete it. We can only look at it.”
Request for cameras:Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson requests funding for body cameras for deputies
Cameras approved:Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office gets OK to spend $1.5M on body cameras, 200 rifles
In January, Santa Rosa County commissioners unanimously approved allocating $1.5 million in federal CARES Act funds to the SRSO to offset the department’s budget costs. The SRSO spent the money that it saved to purchase 200 AR-15s and the body cameras.
The cameras were purchased from the Motorola and WatchGuard companies at an estimated $996,570, which covered the costs of hardware components, required software and the cameras’ operational expenses for the next five years.
“Body cameras are a very good thing for everybody involved,” said Richard Hough, a professor who teaches at the University of West Florida’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Hough, a former homicide detective and deputy chief of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, said body cameras benefit both the public and law enforcement.
Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Rich Aloy demonstrates Tuesday how deputies will wear the department’s new body cameras.
By using body cameras, law enforcement officers “have the ability to gather evidentiary information and the ability to gather voice evidence — what did the person say? — that they might not otherwise have recorded,” Hough explained. As for the public, Hough said, “You also have the insight aspect of what do officers do — what is the reality.
“You get an accountability aspect with the cameras, of are officers performing in the way that the public and the law expects them to,” he said.
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