The Sarasota Police Department bought 24 new Taser AXON Flex body-worn cameras (BWCs) last year with a $36,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. A one-year trial period will begin this month with the hopes of accurately documenting what happens during an arrest. However, public access to these videos has proved to be complicated and expensive.
Michael Barfield, vice president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, made a public records request for all of what was recorded by the cameras in a test period from February of last year. The cost turned out to be quite problematic. The Sarasota Police Department required a payment of up to $16,000 for a total of 84 hours of video, meaning a cost of $190 for each hour of film.
“Due to ongoing litigation which was filed last Wednesday afternoon, we’ve been advised by the city attorney not to comment [on the costs] at this time,” Genevieve Judge, communications coordinator for the Sarasota Police, said.
Training for the 24 officers who volunteered to use the cameras consisted of four hours of instruction by Taser International – future training is to be discussed.
The policies for BWC are quite specific. Officers are to turn on the cameras at a call of duty and turn off the cameras once the call has been handled. They are required to inform subjects of the cameras and turn of the cameras when requested to do so. However, under suspicious circumstances, the officer may leave the camera on.