The Delray Beach Police Department launched its body camera program Friday. 20 officers are now recording what happens when they respond to your emergencies.
Chief Jeff Goldman said he hopes the cameras improve the way police and the public interact.
“I think the community behaves differently and our officers will be vindicated or held accountable and be more transparent about what they're doing,” he explained.
Goldman said the department policies require officers to wear the cameras throughout their entire shift, but are only required to record when they respond to a call.
Turning on the lights and sirens of their squad car automatically triggers the camera to record. In October, the department plans to sync the 20 body cameras with Tasers. So when an officer grabs their Taser, the camera will automatically start recording.
Goldman said the first phase of the program, which includes these 20 cameras and related equipment, cost the department $34,000.
He plans on spending $1 million over the next five years on the program. That sum will pay or a camera for all 150 officers, plus unlimited cloud-based storage for all the videos.
Training Officer Gerry Riccio said most videos will automatically delete after 60 days. If an officer specifically marks a clip, it can be saved forever.
“It’s a lot of responsibility wearing that badge, and now you got even more responsibility wearing that camera,” said Dupree Jackson, a community activist who regularly speaks up against violence in Delray Beach.
He said he hasn’t had any problems with the police department, but believes body cameras will improve accountability.
“The city will be safer and breathe a little bit easier with this new policy in place,” he said.
“In some sense, you know there is a camera there, you know there is complete honesty,” added Jackson’s fellow activist Prentice Mobley, who hopes the cameras bring more transparency to the police department.
But the chief warns the cameras have limitations. The department proved it by putting NewsChannel 5’s Charlie Keegan through a training scenario while wearing a camera.
At one point in the video, Keegan’s arm covers the lens. By the time it clears, the camera only sees one person, not the other man in the room who's holding a weapon.
“This is not the magic wand - this camera deployment, or having our officers have cameras on them - is not the save all where you’ll see everything,” Goldman said.
But he's confident the cameras can see enough to build a better relationship between police and the people they serve.
City Commissioner Al Jacquet agrees. He’s been pushing for the department to add body cameras.
“I strongly support the program, it protects our officers and the public. Body cameras are the future and I’m proud that Delray Beach is, once again, leading the way. I would love to see all Palm Beach County law enforcement agencies using body cameras by 2020,” Jacquet said.