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St. Pete police begin rolling out body cameras

The agency's first officers with body-worn cameras will be on the streets Thursday.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After years of consideration, the St. Petersburg Police Department has launched a new body camera program that will eventually outfit all 575 officers with recording equipment in an effort to increase transparency.  

"I think it's just another tool in our toolbox, so to speak, so we can continue to add in trust to our community,” said Chief Anthony Holloway.

Local leaders agree, saying this is an important step toward rebuilding trust in communities where it has been broken. 

Esther Eugene, president-elect of the St. Petersburg NAACP said it is important for police to have continued accountability in the community, and police should want to wear body cameras for their own protection as well.

"I do believe that body cams not only offers an extra eye of protection for the community but also for the officers,” she said.

The first squads began their training with the body-worn devices this week; the first officers equipped with cameras will be on the streets Thursday. 

“I got my body camera issued to me this morning,” said Chief Holloway.

SPPD purchased the camera system from Axon at a total cost of $6.75 million spread out over five years. The system includes 575 body cameras, related hardware and 360 fleet cameras. The price also includes unlimited storage of the recordings.

Police say the cameras will automatically record, with a 30-second pre-roll, whenever guns or tasers are removed from their holsters. Officers are required to manually activate the cameras in the following situations:

  • Traffic stops
  • Pedestrian stops
  • Crimes in progress
  • Car pursuits
  • Suspicious person/vehicle contacts
  • Arrests
  • Car searches
  • Anytime currency/valuables are handled
  • Physical or verbal confrontations
  • Domestic violence calls
  • DUI investigations
  • Foot chases
  • Advising an individual of their Miranda warnings
  • Use of force
  • During building clearances
  • Any situation or incident that the officer, through training and experience
    believes should be recorded.

Chief Holloway said the cameras have some officers concerned about privacy, but also said cameras will not automatically record private interactions.

In-car cameras are also being installed in patrol cruisers. Those installations should be wrapped up in 2021.

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