Police death cameras supported by Chief Holloway and Mayor Kriseman, Part 2


Dear Editor:

As I mentioned last week, cameras across America are recording the deaths of African Americans at the hands of police officers in astronomical numbers, not to mention the beatings of minorities. Yet, Mayor Rick Kriseman, St. Petersburg Police Chief Holloway and the city council feel that there is no need for body cameras, but instead, favor police death cameras.

These death cameras are activated when the officer pulls his gun from his holster when he or she is about to shoot, unlike body cameras that will allow video footage of the engagement of citizens once the officer arrives on the scene and everything that leads up to an incident.

The National Christian League of Councils (NCLC) has twice provided council members, Mayor Kriseman and Chief Holloway all national evidence supporting the implementation of body cams. In 2013, the U.S. Justice Department asked the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) to identify the issues raised by this new technology and to produce recommendations for police agencies that may be interested in deploying body cameras.

PERF is recognized as the premier law enforcement independent research organization that focuses on critical issues in policing. Since its founding in 1976, PERF has identified best practices on fundamental issues such as reducing police use of force, developing community policing and problem-oriented policing, using technologies to deliver police services to the community and evaluating crime reduction strategies.

PERF findings state that there are clear benefits:

  1. Body cameras can help to de-escalate encounters between officers and members of the public because most people tend to behave better if they know they are being recorded.

  2. Some police chiefs who have deployed cameras tell us that confrontational incidents and complaints against officers decline.

  3. Cameras sometimes uncover problems with officers’ training that can be remedied.

  4. Cameras can provide officers with protection against false complaints, or they can provide important evidence if an officer’s actions are improper.

  5. Cameras can give the community a sense that their police are accountable for their actions.

Additionally, President Barack Obama announced his federal program on Dec. 1, 2013, of $263 million for community policing and a $75 million body camera initiative dedicated to providing purchase assistance for our nation’s police departments.

If council members would have embraced this presidential initiative on Nov. 6, 2014, when Mayor Kriseman told the city council that his official position is that he deferred to his chief of police’s position of opposing the NCLC initiative that council adopt a new policy requiring all officers who carry a badge and a gun to wear body cams, it would have helped defer 50 percent of the cost of purchase of body cams through the federal grant.

In 2016, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriffs of America found that nearly every large police department in a nationwide survey said it plans to move forward with body-worn cameras, with 95 percent either committed to body cameras or having completed their implementation.

The calls for body cams were amplified when The Wall Street Journal reported how successful police wearable cameras have been in California. The report spotlighted how their use in Rialto, Calif., in San Bernardino County, servicing 100,000 residents witnessed complaints against police officers falling by almost 90 percent.

Rialto’s Police Chief William A. Farrar stated in 2014 that “When you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better and if a citizen knows the officer is wearing a camera, chances are the citizen will behave a little better.”

Denver Police Chief stated on Aug. 28, 2014, that “The only officers who would have a problem with body cameras are bad officers.”

In an interview with the Denver Post, Denver Police Chief Robert White said that body-mounted cameras would serve as an impartial record, protecting both the police officer and the party making the complaint.

 “Citizens should know officers are being held accountable,” White told the newspaper.

In 2014, Ocala Police Chief Greg Graham told Ocala Star-Banner that the cameras add transparency and are “just a better way of policing.

In 2014, Fort Valley’s Public Safety Director Lawrence Spurgeon said body cams have eliminated a lot of complaints, helps the officers writes reports and have been great in courtroom testimony.

Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood stated, “The video cameras will protect everyone: the city from baseless lawsuits, the officers from false accusation and the public from police misconduct.”

In 2014, Florida Police Chiefs Association Executive Director Amy Mercer said more municipalities are considering issuing body cameras, and the Associated Press reported on Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014, that, Metro Savannah police were proposing a plan to buy 360 body cams.

It doesn’t take four years to study body cams.  And to tell the council, media and the public that he’s still studying body cams, the chief must be doing a dissertation for a doctorate, but he gets no academic credit from this community. It’s procrastination at its best and purposeful refusal to implement technology that makes his officers accountable at its worst.

“If you put a camera on a gun, it’s only going to work when you pull your gun,” said Deputy Chief Timothy Trainor of the New York Police Department. “We’re more concerned about capturing (all) interactions between the community that we are tasked to serve and the officers.”

The NCLC encourages every citizen to appeal to council members that they oppose Chief Holloway and Mayor’s Kriseman’s death cameras and lobby their council person to vote to adopt body cams whose sound cannot be muted or video cannot be turned off at the officer’s discretion to hide the specifics of police shootings, excessive force, impropriety, police brutality, racial profiling, sexual, ethnic, racial and religious harassment, discrimination or intimidation of the general public.

If Dr. King were alive today, he most certainly would not be advocating police death cams.

It’s simple. Michael Brown in Missouri, Eric Gardner in New York, Stephon Clark in Sacramento, Calif., and Lamont Stephens at the Shell Gas Station on March 9 in St. Pete deserved a third impartial irrefutable eyewitness! Body cams are our third eye and ear, not police death cams!  The NCLC, ACLU Florida and the African-American community cries out: “Give us the body cams!”

Sevell C. Brown, III

NCLC National Director

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