HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister is placing 1,000 body cameras into service to be worn by his deputies.
Chronister says the cameras will be worn by deputies through the rank of Sergeant, including deputies on street patrol, deputies involved with D.U.I. Enforcement, deputies working in the courthouse and even school resource deputies.
Sheriff Chronister says he’s hoping the camera systems will improve community relations.
“We’ve seen disheartening situations around our country recently from civil unrest to vandalism caused by a perceived lack of transparency in law enforcement. We have heard those nationwide calls for change. I am confident that these body-worn cameras will further our commitment at the Sheriff’s Office of building that trust through transparency,” said Chronister.
The Hillsborough County Commission approved $2.5M for the purchase and operation of the cameras in the first year. The county has a five-year contract to operate the system for a total of $14M.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do since I became the sheriff, three and a half years ago, but it’s always been cost-prohibitive,” said Chronister who pointed out changes in technology and storage systems for the video files have come down significantly in price.
Chronister’s opponent in the Republican Primary race for the sheriff’s office is questioning the timing of the announcement.
“I find the timing very odd, given that there is an election tomorrow. I think it’s a political move on Sheriff Chronister’s part. I think it’s a desperate move,” said GOP candidate Charles “Brian” Bosworth.
Donna Davis is a founder of the Black Lives Matter movement in Tampa and she believes the purchase and operation of the cameras is a step in the right direction.
“It’s wonderful that we are moving down this path of accountability,” said Davis.
However, she is concerned about how and when the cameras will be used.
“It’s not clear what the deterrent is to an officer simply or not wearing it. We’ve seen these situations all over the country,” said Davis.
Sheriff Chronister says the cameras automatically turn on if a deputy activates the lights in their patrol car or if they draw their service weapon. Chronister says a deputy may face disciplinary action if they turn off or remove a camera against agency policy.