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Local News

Gulf Breeze Cops to Get Body Cams

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  Gulf Breeze is joining a host of other cities in equipping its police force with body cameras, after the City Council voted unanimously to purchase the devices.

Twenty-three body cams will be issued to full- and part-time officers. City Manager Buz Eddy says the $33,000 cost will be paid from the city’s Red Light Camera Program.

“It’s something that’s becoming the norm for police officers,” said Eddy. “Something that protects the officers and protects the public.”

The Pensacola Police Department and Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office began using body cams last year. John Molchan, an Assistant State Attorney in the First Judicial Circuit, says a video recorded by an on-duty officer generally is admissible in court.

“Quite frankly, the legislation that deals with this has fallen behind the technology that we have at our disposal right now,” said Molchan in early 2015. “There needs to be some updating of the legislation.”

That has since happened. Legislation was signed in March by Gov. Rick Scott, requiring Florida’s more than 300 law enforcement agencies to have policies for using body cameras. It doesn’t mandate their use – only to have regs and training protocols just in case. The real legal question says Molchan, 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.”

The body cams were just one of a number of law enforcement measures approved by the Gulf Breeze City Council. Others include increased patrols along Gulf Breeze Parkway.

“We find that, as anywhere else, when people [obey] all the traffic rules, from speed to stopping, to yield and not driving aggressively, we have accidents,” Eddy said. “And to encourage people to drive that way we need more police presence during heavy traffic times.”

Another $23,000 from the Red Light Camera fund will be used to upgrade the city’s surveillance camera system.

One question yet to be answered is whether body cams will eventually be used by other first responders – firefighters and EMTs – and by other agencies such as code enforcement.