Dashboard cameras are needed!

Maria Scruggs

Dear Editor:

Retired Chief of Police Jim Bueermann of Redlands California Police Department, a job he held for approximately 13 years, ran a span of 33 years with the department. In 2011 he joined the National Institute of Justice as an executive fellow. In that capacity, he authored a journal titled “Being Smart on Crime” with evidenced-based policing.

In his journal, he cites the case for why it is imperative that police departments utilize evidence- based policing to establish policy and developing strategies for combatting crime, a point that I have made on countless occasions in regards to public policy decisions in Pinellas County.

I am often perplexed when I hear very complex social and economic issues reduced to individual’s opinions and personal thoughts. Opinions often formed and shaped by the policy and policymaker with limited to no experience in the field they often find themselves making decisions in.

Bueermann makes the case that just as science uses the best evidence available in making decisions relative to scientific problems, he states police departments must do the same.  This point brings me to the actions of city council last week when they delayed Police Chief Anthony Holloway’s request for the purchase of dashboard cameras for the new police cruisers.

Imagine my surprise when the decision was made to delay the purchase of the dashboard cameras directing the chief to explore the cost of Shot Spotters. Based on the Facebook posts I have read defending the council’s decision, it became clear that the discussion had taken a turn based on something other than an assessment of the circumstances for which Holloway was making the request.

While we are talking two types of law enforcement technologies, I am not certain that the council was comparing apples to apples. The St. Petersburg Police Department, like any major or mid -sized police department, would be irresponsible in not considering the purchase of dashboard cameras.

Those cameras, if used effectively and efficiently, aid tremendously in managing the public’s and officer’s safety. The Shot Spotters are designed to aid in the detection of gunshots being fired and even can provide a location from which the shots were fired. That is nice, but the question one should consider is what Holloway was trying to accomplish by making a recommendation for council to purchase the recorders.

My guess is the chief is well aware that he could one day find himself in a position where an officer’s professionalism could be called into question, or find himself in a position where the camera could potentially identify someone who has caused harm to an officer.

The fact that we have a good department in no way should be used as a foundation for delaying a purchase of technology that could be used to support something as important as life or liberty. St. Petersburg City Council, let’s move into the 21st century by utilizing evidence-based practice as the basis for making informed decisions about the police department.

St. Petersburg City Council, approve the decision for the SPPD to purchase dashboard cameras!

Maria L. Scruggs, President, St. Petersburg Branch NAACP

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