Fort Pierce police officers are now wearing body cameras. The department signed a 5 year $450,000 contract earlier this year for 100 body cameras to outfit their road patrol officers. It's part of an effort to show transparency and build trust with the community.
“It also documents what happens. You’ll be on a scene and you’ll get 4 or 5 different versions," said Sgt. Tom McDermott with the FPPD.
The call for body cameras became louder after the shooting death of unarmed Demarcus Semer in 2016. A grand jury cleared the two officers involved of any criminal wrongdoing, though they were both let go from the force.
That grand jury investigation called for improved training, and body cameras.
Department policy dictates when the cameras are turned on.
“It pretty much is any encounter you have whether it’s criminal or non-criminal," said Sgt. McDermott.
A unique feature is the cameras will activate anytime an officer draws their weapon.
The video will be saved anywhere from 30 days to 99 years depending on the situation. The cameras are actually always recording in a 30-second loop without audio.
“Once you activate this, it will continue to record and capture the entirety of the event. When the officer is through with the investigation, click it back," Sgt. McDermott said, while demonstrating the recording of a video with a reporter.
Sgt. McDermott says officer reaction so far has been mixed. “Some are reluctant. Others think it’s the greatest thing. It varies from personality to personality.”
The department is putting together a short video for its website to show residents the cameras are now on the job as well.