The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is one of seven large agencies in the U.S. receiving $997,956 from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Administration to roll out a body camera program.
The cameras are expected to be purchased in late 2018.
“To be recognized by the federal government with this award, the largest of any of those in this category at this time, is a testament to the diligent work we are doing in our technical pilot; policy development; and plans for officer training, when we select the best device for our needs,” said Sheriff Mike Williams in a news release.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is in the midst of piloting body cameras from different vendors on officers who are volunteering to wear them. The process is split into three pilots, each trial period using a different vendor. The second of three planned testing periods will begin in January.
According to JSO, the results from pilots will be evaluated by late spring of 2018 and a bid process for vendors will begin.
The Jacksonville City Council will have to approve the grant. A bill for it will be introduced at Tuesday’s council meeting.
The funding will be applied toward the first round of purchases and used for 1,113 cameras, a five-year warranty, software, unlimited data storage and 200 docking stations.
In addition, JSO will be dedicating a 11-member staff to oversee the program, including officers and logistics coordinators.
This past summer, with the pilot soon to begin, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams held a community meeting, noting the importance of thoroughly researching the best body cams and practices before implementing a program.
“They are really a new and valuable technology. It’s a very powerful tool but it requires rules and it requires policy and funding and infrastructure for it to be successful,” he said. “So whatever we build, we must be able to sustain it.”
JSO has already drafted a policy regarding the use of cameras. Officers will have to turn them on prior to exiting their vehicles to initiate any investigation or enforcement activity. There are certain situations where officers won’t have to roll the camera. An example would include a sexual assault victim who doesn’t want to be recorded.
Officers won’t be allowed to edit any recorded footage but they will be allowed to review recorded footage before writing report or providing a statement.
At the time the policy was drafted, Williams said it will probably be tweaked as JSO continues learning about best practices with cams.
Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.