The University of North Florida Police Department is taking steps to have body cameras available for all patrol officers and sergeants with the aid of a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
A $29,041 grant along with a match from the university covered the cost of body cameras for 22 officers on the campus. With the funding, the department was required to review its current policy on cameras.
Currently officers have to share the cameras while in the field. The department first brought body cameras to the campus through a pilot program in 2015.
Deputy Chief Bill Strudel said the increase of available cameras will help officers on patrol.
“We are going from having three cameras to having everyone have a camera which mean there will be several cameras at any scene, which is helpful,” Strudel said.
Strudel described the overall feedback as being positive from the community.
A meeting that was open to the public was held at the university’s Student Union building on January 16 to review the current policy.
“What we are trying to do is just get input on the policy much like the sheriff did before he wrote his,” Strudel said.
The department is working on purchasing new body cameras that will be more sophisticated than the existing devices.
At the moment, the department is looking at four options; Axon Flex, which is the current system provider, Safariland, Motorola and Watchguard.
Training will take only a few hours per officer once the new cameras come in, since the officers are already familiar with body cameras.
“I think by in large, everybody put out the word ‘transparency,’ which we always tried to do. But the cameras help both sides to properly behave in a better fashion,”Strudel said. “We have very few problems with officers or students but when we do it’s nice to see both sides of the stories without the human element.”
In December, the university revealed the Safe Ospreys App.
It allows students to receive information faster than they would through just their email. Included in the app is a way to contact the campus police who will be sent to the person’s location.
Officers will have the new body cameras on at every scene, including athletics events.
The cameras automatically record video but won’t record sound until the officer hits the button. After that, audio will begin recording in 30 seconds. Once the officer presses the record button a second time audio and video will stop recording.
The next meeting for input takes place March 2 from 11 am to noon in the Student Union.
Joslyn Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6316.
Photo used under Wikimedia Commons license.