In August, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced that he would start looking into body-worn cameras for his deputies.
Gualtieri has, in the past, been reluctant about the use of body-worn cameras. Since June, over 2,300 people have signed an online petition calling for officer accountability in the Pinellas County Sheriff’s office in the form of body cameras.
On Wednesday, October 28, Gualtieri implemented the body-worn camera trial program at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the PCSO’s news release, “recognizing the public’s desire for body-worn cameras and the sheriff’s own desire to maintain absolute transparency, the program will initially outfit 30 deputies for a field trial.”
If the field trial is successful, eventually PCSO will outfit more than 800 deputies with the technology.
“The program will cost approximately three million dollars per year for the next five years and will include the body-worn camera, TASER, a new in-car video system and holster activation, which will work in conjunction with one another,” according to the PCSO’s news release.
Gualtieri selected manufacturer Axon, formerly known as Taser International, to supply the technology.
“Body-worn cameras are something that I absolutely endorse and embrace,” said Gualtieri. “I am listening to our community that overwhelmingly supports and wants these cameras, and I am committed to making that happen.”
The St. Petersburg Police Department has also been approved for a five-year contract with the same manufacturer, Axon, for body-worn cameras.
On Thursday, October 15 during a presentation to St. Petersburg City Council, SPPD Assistant Chief Antonio Gilliam said that the contract with Axon will provide SPPD with 500 body-worn cameras and 450 mobile video systems for patrol cars, as well as the software and ownership of the video footage.
Gulfport’s Police Department’s own body-worn cameras work similarly to the Axon technology adopted by SPPD and the PCSO.
The camera will automatically activate when an officer’s firearm is removed from its holster, or when a taser is removed from a holster and in the ready-to-fire mode. Cameras in the patrol cars automatically activate when the overhead lights are turned on.
Gilliam explained that SPPD policy will require the officer to turn the camera on when they begin duty and leave it on until their shift ends.