The Fort Pierce Police Department deployed body-worn cameras with auto activation technology last summer, but now it’s rolling out a newer system.
"This helps us improve our accountability to the community," said Sgt. Jason Braun, Fort Pierce Police Department.
Sgt. Braun and members of the department showed off the new cameras Thursday after partnering with the company Axon. In a mock traffic stop, you can clearly see and hear the officer get out of his cruiser, walk up to the car and speak with the driver.
Officers are trained to turn on the body cameras before an interaction with a citizen, but with the new wireless technology the cameras can also be activated once a firearm is pulled from its holster, or when a TASER is used.
"Those two events will trigger a wireless signal that will activate all of the body cameras in the general area," Braun said.
Last summer, the city commission approved a 5-year contract costing $450,000 to fit the officers with cameras. A few months after the launch, the department says it discovered a cable connecting the holster to the camera was susceptible to breakage under the stresses the officers placed on their equipment on a daily basis. The breakage affected the holster’s ability to activate the camera, but did not affect the camera’s functionality.
The purchase came months after 21-year-old Demarcus Semer was shot and killed by a Fort Pierce Police officer in 2016. A grand jury later determined the officer’s actions were justified. Pastor Ned Childress says there is still lack of trust in the community, and he wants to see the cameras on all the time.
“I think the community, if they know those cameras are rolling 24/7, they will feel more safer when in contact with law enforcement," Childress said.
The officers also say it better protects everyone involved.
"When we're writing our reports, it helps us accurately depict the actual incident that occurred" said Officer. Brandy Rodgers of the Fort Pierce Police Department.
Sgt. Braun said the new system will come at no additional cost, and officers won't need any new training. The transition to the new system is expected to be completed in the next several months.