CORAL SPRINGS, FL – Starting next week, the city’s police officers will hit the streets wearing body cameras – part of a $1.7 million purchase of upgraded police equipment to make police work more accountable to the public as well as prevent complaints and allegations made against officers.
At a training room at Coral Springs Police Department, officers learned on Tuesday how to put on body cameras and use their video and audio recording feature. More than 100 officers are completing the training this week to be ready to wear the cameras on Feb. 3 during their entire shifts and use the recording feature on all calls, from beginning to end.
“Officers are very accepting of having body cameras with them on the calls,” said Officer Brody Scott, who is helping with the cameras’ training. “Some people are nervous and some people are happy. It’s a change and with a change there’s things we’re going into that are unexpected.”
The city purchased 150 body cameras and 60 spare body cameras, along with 235 tasers, for $1.7 million, using $500,000 in forfeiture funds, $300,000 in a federal grant, and $965,605 in city operating funds, city records show. The equipment, which will be paid out over a five-year period, also included batteries, storage, docking bases, software licensing, warranties, and other expenses.
The cameras and tasers (which are more technologically advanced) were purchased from Axon, which has 3,339 police agencies across the county using their body cameras, including six in Broward County: Broward Sheriff’s Office, Pembroke Pines, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Miramar, and Seminole Tribal Police. Axon was the second highest-ranked bidder on the purchase, and officials went with Axon because the top bidder, Utility, had issues with evidence sharing, according to records.
The cameras are located on the officers’ front vest and attached using a magnetic plate. Officers have to double-tap the camera to activate it when responding to a call, though a setting allows up to 30 audio-free seconds of video to be captured prior to activation.
Coral Springs is among the last cities in Broward County to use body cameras. The reason: the city wanted to take time to properly research the cameras, test and evaluate them, and determine best practices for storing data and retaining it, said Sgt. Carla Miller, who handles training and public information for the department. In addition, police had to create a new position to handle the records and data related to the cameras.
Miller said cameras benefit police work by providing more perspectives on what happens during police call-outs.
“A lot of the interactions that we have are not on peoples’ best days so they don’t like us being there and that causes a complaint or accusation of rudeness,” Miller said. “There’s multiple objectives for the cameras. That includes transparency for the agency and officers. We want to reduce citizen complaints, especially ones that are false.”
Cameras have become popular among law enforcement agencies across the nation following years of public complaints about unnecessary force, especially in African-American, Latino, and other minority communities. A lot of research, including at the Urban Institute, backs up the need for cameras in increasing public confidence in local policing, reducing the number of complaints and allegations made against officers, deescalating tensions at crime investigations, and even cutting back the time officers spend on paperwork.
In addition, prosecutors are beginning to rely heavily on body cameras’ videos to get convictions, city officials said.
“What (a camera) does is that it takes a story from a ‘he said, she said’ story to more proof of what the entire story is,” Scott said.