While many law enforcement agencies around the country continue to debate whether they should have patrol officers wear body cameras or not, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office isn’t waiting any longer.
More than 400 deputies and investigators will be equipped with body cameras beginning in February, a move Sheriff Chris Nocco says will make neighborhoods safer for deputies, and the people who live in them.
“This is not the panacea,” Nocco said during a news conference Thursday. “This is not going to be the cure-all for all the issues of our world. But it’s a tool, just like any other tool that we use in law enforcement.”
The sheriff’s office will use Taser Axon cameras, which can be mounted on glasses, hats, shirt fronts, collars, lapels and other locations. They will record both video and audio, with each unit able to hold four hours of video with a battery that lasts 12 hours.
At the end of each shift, deputies will connect their camera to a docking station, which will upload each video. And once they are in the system, they cannot be manipulated, and deputies will not be able to edit them.
The entire program is going to cost $400,000 a year — far less than what other neighboring agencies like the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is considering, Nocco said. Initial funds will come from federal forfeiture dollars, but future years will require funding through the Pasco County Commission using taxpayer dollars.
While the cost will increase for the sheriff’s office, Nocco says the cost benefits everywhere else will more than pay for it — especially when it comes to the judicial system.
“If used properly, this is going to save taxpayer dollars,” Nocco said. “This is going to alleviate an already overcrowded judicial system, and this is going to respect victims and ensure that people are brought to justice.”
Nocco cited studies in the United Kingdom where such technology has been used for the last few years, including one in Scotland where more than 70 percent of cases that involved body cameras were less likely to go to trial. A study two years ago in Rialto, California, saw complaints against law enforcement officers from 24 to just three. Also, cases that involved use of force also dropped from 61 to 25.
Because Nocco won’t need county money to fund the cameras, he won’t need to seek any approval from the county commission. However, he will need commissioners’ backing next fall when he works to add the $400,000 cost to his overall budget. Based on his requested budget amount from this past budget cycle, the cameras would represent less than a half percent of his total money request.
For more on the body cameras and what it means for Pasco County, be sure to read the Dec. 17 print edition of The Laker/Lutz News.
To see the body cameras in action during the recent test run by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, click here.