The footage, taken from a camera mounted on a police officer’s dashboard in Celina, Texas, showed the officer tackling to the concrete a man suspected to be high on heroin. The man struggled before eventually being put in handcuffs.
A crowd of a few dozen people at Saint Leo University on Thursday night then saw the same scene unfold from the point of view of the police officer’s body camera. The camera showed the suspect punched the officer in the face before getting slammed to the ground.
The footage kicked off a discussion on body cameras featuring Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor and Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco.
“I believe the cameras will improve behavior of officers a little and the citizens a whole lot,” Castor said. “It will be a whole new reality show for the community. Most people have no idea what officers deal with on a daily basis.”
Dialogue over the use of body cameras has existed for years but rose to national prominence after an unarmed black teenager was shot to death by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last August.
“This started way before Ferguson,” Nocco said, referring to talks about body cameras. “(Our deputies) have Kevlar vests, but they wanted to be protected from (the public’s) cameras. Our deputies say they needed something for their own protection.
“As we move forward, this will constantly evolve and change, but I think we’ll be much better for it.”
Some Pasco deputies began wearing body cameras late last year when the agency was testing which cameras to use. Like the Tampa Police Department, the agency decided on cameras made by Taser Axon.
All Pasco patrol deputies began wearing the body cameras in February; some narcotics officers and school resource officers also wear them.
The sheriff’s 415 body cameras come at a first-year cost of about $400,000, which is being paid with federal forfeiture money. After the first year, body cameras will be “a budget request to the county,” Nocco has said.
The cameras are meant to record everything from traffic stops and building checks to suspect pursuits and arrests.
In January, the Tampa City Council unanimously approved spending $83,000 to purchase the 60 Taser Axon Flex cameras and video storage system. Over the next five years, the cost of storing video footage, software licenses and other expenses is expected to total about $287,000.
The money comes from the police forfeiture fund, which includes cash and property seized in criminal investigations.
In Tampa and Pasco, the cameras don’t record during an officer’s down time. Officers are required to inform a victim of a crime when they are being recorded; a victim can decline to be recorded.
In electing to use body cameras, both agencies have cited a 2012 study done by the police department in Rialto, California. The study found that use of body cameras coincided with a precipitous drop in the frequency with which officers used force against a suspect, while the number of complaints filed against officers dropped 88 percent.
Original article and video here.