Hallandale Beach cops getting body cameras, like it or not
Nearly two years after agreeing to a pilot body camera program for the police department, city commissioners are finally on the verge of buying the cameras.
On Wednesday, they approved a plan to buy 28 cameras for $55,000 from Taser International.
The Hallandale Beach Police Department plans to assign body cams to 20 street cops and eight sergeants.
While body cams are a growing trend for police departments around the country, Hallandale Beach is one of the first in Broward County to invest in them. Lauderhill and Coral Springs are also considering their use.
Hallandale Beach officials have been talking about equipping police with body cams for the past 22 months.
Commissioner Michele Lazarow pushed for body cams in September 2013, saying they would help cut down on citizen complaints and improve relations with the public.
A task force made up of police officers and top brass spent months working on guidelines governing the use of the cameras, including when they should be turned on.
Not everyone is happy about the prospect.
Union officials tend to be anti-camera, thinking the devices are only there to "burn a cop," as union leader Jeff Marano puts it.
Marano, president of the Broward County Police Benevolent Association, said body cameras may cause fatal errors in the field because some officers might be self-conscious about being recorded.
A majority of Hallandale Beach cops — 67 percent — oppose the cameras, according to a survey funded by the police union.
"Trainees do not go to Police Academies to be cameramen," wrote one officer. "Good luck! Police work in America is over," wrote another.
One officer backed the cameras, but appeared to be in the minority.
"The number of advantages…far outweighs any perceived negatives," the officer wrote.
Police Chief Dwayne Flournoy said the union plans to take another survey in one year to see if attitudes have changed.
In April, Mayor Joy Cooper and Commissioners Lazarow, Keith London and Anthony Sanders spent part of the day at the Broward Police Academy to get more insight into police work.
They tried out their skills in a training simulation room and even allowed themselves to be shocked by a Taser for one second.
Afterward, they headed back to City Hall for a presentation on body cameras.
Outside consultants told commissioners the city would be better off with the cameras than without them.
"If this is done the right way, you can be a leader in the region," one expert told them.
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