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Pensacola Police Start Using Body Cameras

Pensacola Police Department

Over the next few months, Pensacola police officers will be outfitted with body cameras as part of their basic gear.

Fifty-five color cameras and software were purchased last fall, using $95,000 from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, money which is raised from seizures and forfeitures.

“More technology that’s better, it’s going to keep our citizens safe, the public safe and keep our officers safe,” said Mayor Ashton Hayward. “And I think it’s being proactive, and not reactive.”

The cameras are 1 ½ by 2 ½ inches, and are designed to be worn in the middle of the chest, in open view. Testing, planning and training have been underway for the better part of a year by the Pensacola PD.

“We’ve been trying out different types of cameras,” said Pensacola Police Chief Chip Simmons. “We’ve had some on the lapels, some of the chest and some in the glasses. Trying to figure out what’s best for the Pensacola Police Department.”

Simmons says ten officers will don the cameras in the beginning. He added that the incidents in Ferguson, Missouri and New York had something of an indirect effect on their timetable to deploy the new technology.

The new procedures include downloading the video into the server, and to the State Attorney’s Office for Judicial review. Assistant State Attorney John Molchan says generally speaking, a video recorded by an on-duty officer is admissible in court. The real legal question about body cams is the recording of conversations. 

“The law in Florida (says) you are not allowed to record a person’s conservation in certain circumstances,” Molchan said. “The exceptions are if there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy, or if the consents. The Pensacola Police Department has addressed that in their policy.”

Still to be determined is whether body cams will eventually catch on with other first responders, firefighters and EMTs, and other officers such as those working in Code Enforcement.

Meanwhile, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan says his agency is working with the State Attorney’s Office in compiling data on body cams. Those areas include cost, storage of video, and privacy issues. But Morgan adds that he’s not adverse to their eventual use by ECSO.