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Out-going commissioner makes final plea to commissioners to keep police body camera compliance a priority

Reggie Sessions makes final plea to commissioners
Posted at 12:06 AM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 00:06:27-05

FORT PIERCE, Fla.  — In his final meeting as a Fort Pierce commissioner, Reggie Sessions made a final plea to commissioners to keep the pressure on the Fort Pierce Police Department and officers' use of body-worn cameras.

He said he feels that too often, the cameras are not being used by officers as they are supposed to be used, according to policy.

For months, he has been pushing to create a form of city oversight into the police department's body-worn camera policies, saying he feels the rules are not being properly enforced. He proposed a city ordinance that would require officers to upload all of their body camera footage after every shift.

He does not feel penalties are harsh enough if officers break the rules.

"Yes, we have a body camera policy in place, but are we using the cameras adequately and not at the discretion of the officer?" Sessions asked at Monday night's commission meeting.

Sessions said he had been doing his own research and pulling data.

"What's really disturbing is that when you look at the percentage of non-compliance, it's up 12%," Sessions said. "Twelve percent of non-compliance over a six-month period for a police department of any city deserves some attention."

He criticized the Police Advisory Board for not recommending policy reviews or additions without examining compliance data first.

Other city commissioners have not voiced support in creating any new city policies, saying they feel the current policies already on the books at the police department are sufficient. They did not support Sessions' proposal to fine or charge officers with a misdemeanor crime for failing to upload footage.

Fort Pierce Police Chief Diane Hobley-Burney said at Monday night's meeting that supervisors do random audits of their officer's body camera use and compliance with policies. She said the department is not doing anything inappropriate when it comes to body camera use.

Sessions began looking further into body camera use following an incident at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center, where an officer was accused of punching a patient in the mental care unit of the hospital. The officers in the room did not have their body cameras turned on. Surveillance cameras at the hospital, however, still captured the incident.

The officer was allowed to resign.

For now, there are no planned discussions about body cameras in the future.