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St.Petersburg police body camera trial begins

Pinellas County

ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – There’s no question body cameras have changed the way police officers do their job. Supporters say they protect the public and police but not everyone is a fan of the devices and the price tag that comes with them.

The St. Petersburg Police Department said they are rolling out a 45-day trial of body cameras.

The cameras will be the size of a cell phone and will soon be placed on the chest of officers to keep the community and officers safe. Another model of the camera is a wristwatch camera.

Chief Anthony Holloway said his goal is to increase transparency, but that transparency comes at a cost.

Only select officers will participate in the 45-day trial but if all goes well and the cameras are purchased for full-time use for 400+ offices, Chief Holloway believes it will cost more then a million dollars.

“Over a million dollars…of my taxpayer money?” said St.Petersubrg resident Samar Spann. After the initial sticker shock wore off she agreed that it’s worth the transparency.

“For some of the officers, anytime you have new technology there is going to be some pushback,” said Chief Holloway.

Some of the officers were concerned it would record their every move and every conversation, officers also feared people wouldn’t want to interact with them in the community if they felt they were being recorded. However, the chief tells us the cameras will only activate when they use a gun or taser.

“Officers don’t have to worry about turning it on or off. When he or she pulls the weapon, it clears the holster, it will come on,” said Chief Holloway.

The body cameras work in multiple ways, the camera can pre-roll two minutes before a weapon is used, manually turn on or send the officer’s GPS location to headquarters for backup.

The NAACP branch in Pinellas County is thrilled about the move but knows there will be a learning curve.

In addition to the camera costs four jobs will be created to redact video and the officer’s uniforms will need to be altered to hold the equipment.

The police chief says he will present his finding to the mayor and city council by the end of the year. If all goes well, more then 400 officers will wear them by next year.

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