Police body cam footage seems to be a very popular topic of discussion lately. There has been much controversy over the use of the body cam, who should wear one, what is done with the footage and how long it needs to be saved. Many in the community think that body cams are necessary checks on power by giving police officers a reason to think before they do something that may be interpreted as out-of-line or an abuse of power. While others may think that the cameras add an extra layer of bureaucracy and may prevent police from doing what is necessary to stop a crime. Regardless of what one may think, it appears that we will be seeing more of these cameras worn by police as time goes by. In the state of Florida, we have our own legislation that governs body cams, and in South Florida, we have our own issues with this technology.
Florida Body Cam Laws
The current law in Florida states that police are not required to wear body cams. The law simply leaves it up to each district as to whether they want to force officers to wear the cams. However, this 2016 law does state that if agencies decide to require their officers to wear the body cams that they must have policies and procedures in place for the proper use, maintenance, and storage of the cameras and data.
The Florida Senate has also unanimously approved a proposal allowing law enforcement to review footage of the body cams before filling out a report. The Florida House also passed this bill (HB305), and it is currently waiting for the Governor to sign it into law.
Perhaps an issue with the law as it currently stands in Florida is that there is a lot of room for interpretation. Each individual agency has the authority to decide if officers will have to wear the cams, and they also determine their own policies for use. This can create a patchwork system that has different rules depending on county or city.
South Florida in the Body Cam Spotlight
A recent lawsuit against the Miami-Dade Police Department has brought to light some of the loopholes in the body cam footage conversation. Back in early November 2016, the Professional Law Enforcement Association requested the footage from a Miami-Dade County Airport cop’s body camera from the week of September 7. Per Miami-Dade County Police Department’s policy, all data from body cameras are stored for 90 days if it is not being used as evidence in a case. The request from the law enforcement union was placed within 60 days.
In early December, Miami-Dade County Police confirmed that they had the footage, and sent the association a bill for the request. However, in late January, an officer reported that the footage had been deleted per the procedure that footage is deleted after 90 days. The law enforcement union is now suing the department and demanding that the footage be restored. Unfortunately, it may be impossible to retrieve the footage that has been deleted.
Deleted footage is just one of the issues surrounding body cameras. There are also other examples of officers not wearing cameras when they should or not understanding the proper use of the cameras. Clearly, there is still a lot of work to be done in creating a more streamlined process for police body cameras.
If you have been arrested and accused of a crime, and feel that a police body camera may prove that your arrest was handled improperly, it’s extremely important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your attorney knows the laws, and may be able to use evidence to prove improper handling by police.
Iannelli, J. (2017, May 05). Miami-Dade Police Deleted Body-Camera Footage After Someone Requested to View It. Retrieved May 12, 2017, from http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/miami-dade-county-police-deleted-body-camera-footage-after-professional-law-enforcement-association-requested-it-9325200
Senate Signs Off On Police Body Cam Bill. (n.d.). Retrieved May 12, 2017, from http://miami.cbslocal.com/2017/04/19/senate-police-body-cam/
Carlton Fields -Kevin P. McCoy and Jonathan Z. DeSantis. (n.d.). Florida Law Mandates Police Body Camera Policies-Then Lets Agencies Fend for Themselves. Retrieved May 12, 2017, from http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=51ee47a7-1234-416b-8a7b-dd4322d2914e
Lipscomb, J. (2017, May 04). Miami Police Still Aren’t Wearing Their Body Cameras. Retrieved May 12, 2017, from http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/miami-police-still-arent-wearing-their-body-cameras-9180036