New law lets police review body cameras

Lazaro Aleman
ECB Publishing, Inc.

One of 11 bills that Gov. Rick Scott signed into law this week allows police officers to review the recorded footage on their body cameras before writing reports or making statements.
SB-624, which the governor signed into law on Wednesday, May 10, amends the existing law so as to permit officers using body cameras to review their devices’ recorded footage on their own initiative prior to writing reports or making statements concerning events that occurred during the execution of their duties.
The amendment, consisting of the addition of a paragraph, was contained within the two-page bill.
The provision specifically does not apply to “an officer’s inherent duty to immediately disclose information necessary to secure an active crime scene or identify suspects or witnesses.”
The footage that officers are permitted to examine applies to any incident that they encounter while on duty, according to the Florida Police Benevolent Association, which advocated for the bill.
Critics say the law affords officers an unfair advantage that citizens don’t have when they address police. But proponents say it allows officers to give a more accurate and detailed description of whatever went down.
Body cameras are portable electronic recording devices that officers typically wear on their upper bodies and that record the officer’s encounters and activities on audio and video.
The devices came to the fore nationally following the fatal shooting of an unarmed black youth in Ferguson, Mo., by a police officer in 2014. It was argued that had the officer been wearing a body camera, it would have answered a great many questions that instead relied on what one or the other side claimed.
Studies reportedly indicate that body cameras reduce both the use of force by police and complaints from citizens.
Florida does not require that law-enforcement agencies use body cameras, but a great many departments in the state use them nonetheless. In Jeffer-son County, the Monticello Police Department uses body cameras, as does the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.