State Attorney Nelson To Consider Police Body Cam Policy Reforms

Jun 9, 2020

After Jacksonville protestors called for police reform and the release of body cam footage in recent officer-involved shootings, State Attorney Melissa Nelson released a memo Wednesday saying her office is reviewing its procedures.

Nelson’s Fourth Judicial Circuit office, which serves Clay, Duval and Nassau counties, analyzes all officer-involved shootings involving the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to determine whether an officer’s use of force was lawful.

Nelson said her office is reviewing its  practices and working on proposed reforms, including the public release of body cam footage.

“This policy will balance the integrity of investigative action and the public’s right to transparency. We have identified several opportunities that exist for improvement upon our current practices, including determining a date certain by which BWC (body warn camera) footage will be made available to the public in all OIS (officer involved shooting) incidents,” Nelson wrote in the memo her office sent to WJCT News.

She said her office will also solicit feedback from the community as a part of the policy review. 

Nelson added that because the JSO has said it is legally prevented from releasing body cam video prior to any administrative hearing of a shooting officer, from this point forward her office will determine the date of public release of footage.

Nelson also addressed the Jamee Johnson investigation, which is among the cases local protesters have focused on. “The SAO (State Attorney’s Office) is working to bring the OIS investigation of Jamee Johnson to conclusion and will make available the BWC footage at the same time we render our decision and findings.”

Johnson, 22, was a Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University student who was killed in December during a JSO traffic stop in Jacksonville.

Related: Lawmakers Want Answers After FAMU Student Is Killed In JSO Officer Involved Shooting

Ben Frazier, president and founder of Jacksonville’s Northside Coalition, has been among those leading the charge for body cam footage to be released.

“We’ve got to do something about it. If not now, when? If not us, who?” Frazier said at a recent protest.

Nelson said her office currently has an 11-member rotation of assistant state attorneys on-call who respond to any shooting scene involving a law enforcement official in Clay, Duval or Nassau counties.

She said ensuring the integrity of the evidence is paramount during the evidence.

“Witness accounts must be of their own accord and not influenced — either intentionally or unintentionally — by other evidence in the case. For these same reasons, in all OIS investigations involving BWC footage, a shooting officer is prohibited from viewing any BWC footage except for footage recorded by their own BWC,” Nelson wrote.

Nelson also noted that her office assessed and reformed its officer involved shooting procedures in 2017.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

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