Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward announced today that Pensacola Police officers would begin wearing body cameras as part of their regular duty gear.
“Pensacola is fortunate to have what I believe is one of the finest police departments in the country, but we are always looking for ways that we can be better,” said Mayor Ashton Hayward. “It’s important to me that we be transparent in everything we do as a city government, and I believe these cameras will reinforce public trust in our police department while safeguarding both our citizens and our police officers.”
The deployment of body cameras comes after nearly a year of planning, testing, and training by the Pensacola Police Department. The department has used in-car cameras for approximately 18 years, but until now, there has not been a way to capture on video any incidents which occur away from police vehicles. The new body cameras will be activated anytime an officer is conducting police business. Departmental policy will allow for officer discretion in order to protect the privacy of victims and witnesses.
“We have been looking at getting body cameras for some time,” said Chief Chip W. Simmons. “We believe this is another effort we can take to improve the quality of service we offer to the public.”
The police department purchased 55 body cameras and supporting software last fall with $95,000 from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, which includes money from seizures and forfeitures. Ten officers have been trained on how to use the cameras and will be the first to use them on patrol, beginning today. Other officers will be trained over the next four months on the use of the remaining cameras.
“This gives us an opportunity to collect better, more complete evidence and believe it will also help in reducing complaints against officers,” said Sgt. Bruce Martin, video system administrator for the department.
The cameras measure about 1½ by 2½ inches, will be worn in the center of an officer’s chest, and are capable of continuously recording for approximately eight hours. Throughout their shifts, officers can download video from their vehicles to a server, and once the video is downloaded, the recording space becomes available again.