According to WPBF, recently during a virtual forum in Palm Beach County, questions from residents were raised about policing and race relations, especially the use of body cameras in Palm Beach County.
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw confirmed he’s working on a plan to instate the use of body cameras on all police officers in Palm Beach County.
“Body-worn cameras are fantastic,” Bradshaw said. “We are thrilled to death that we are finally going to get them.”
According to Sheriff Bradshaw, Palm Beach County is in talks with the county commission to fund the installation and use of body cameras from sales tax revenue. Bradshaw said, “with an agency my size, we are talking a $19 million investment”. A county commissioner stated they are looking for the body cameras to be budgeted from 2023 to 2025. The use of video by private citizens as well as law enforcement has been an evidentiary tool. With in-car cameras and now body cameras, police are able to obtain evidence for trial which they previously would have to recall from memory.
Cameras Keeping Police in Line
Not only do body cameras keep officers safe, but they also keep them in line. There have been countless scenarios where officers have been seen planting drugs on a person or vehicle during a search. Without a body camera or adequate evidence, it may be impossible to prove that the victim was framed.
Here is footage of an officer planting drugs during traffic stops which was eventually caught on his bodycam leading to the officer's arrest:
Body camera evidence is great for this reason. I have been able to obtain nolle prose in Palm Beach County (State’s Dismissal) as a result of obtaining body camera evidence. In one particular case, the defendant was accused of domestic battery. When the police arrived the defendant was not there. In fact, the complaining victim didn’t actually call the police. A welfare check was done because she was not responding to another family member’s call. What transpired was the alleged victim gave her side of the story on camera, however, it did not match up to the facts presented. Furthermore, and what was most shocking is the officers had a discussion on camera about how they weren’t even sure that anything had happened. Despite this conversation, they sought to arrest the defendant. Once the State Attorney’s office saw the video, the inconsistencies with the victim’s testimony, and the officers wavering about if they had enough to arrest the defendant led to the case being dropped.
If there is no bodycam footage, we always try to obtain in-car camera evidence on a DUI stop. Often times we find that the officer’s Probable Cause Affidavit (police report) is inconstant with the video. Descriptions of the field sobriety exercises are not given justice without video. Juries love to see what actually happened on the scene rather than ones several different accounts.
Just How Effective Are Bodycams?
In 2017, a study conducted by a Virginia-based CNA corporation found a 37% reduction in officers involved in use-of-force incidents and a 30% decrease in the number of officers with multiple complaints filed against them in the past. The officers not equipped with the bodycams saw a use-of-force increase by 4%. When officers know they are being watched and recorded, they are more likely to think about their actions instead of acting on impulse. It was also found that bodycams create considerable cost savings for police by simplifying the complaint resolution process.