St. Pete police chief wants gun cams, not body cams

- St. Petersburg Police Chief Tony Holloway said he still has reservations about the use of body cameras. 

He is part of an American Bar Association panel tasked with thinking through the policy, privacy and public records implications of body cams. However, Holloway said he is intrigued by another technology: Gun cams

"There's a camera mount that you can put on your gun. So when I pull my gun, it starts recording," Holloway told FOX 13 News Friday. "I would buy that technology right now. If it worked correctly, I would buy that camera to place on my gun, because that's what you want to see: what did I do when I was using deadly force?"

The nuance in the chief's interest is the phrase "...if it worked correctly," a question that has yet to be answered to his satisfaction. 

There is also a requirement to discuss equipment changes with the Police Benevolent Association, the collective bargaining unit for rank and file officers. 

"I agree with the chief's looking toward the gun camera in theory," PBA President George Lofton told FOX 13 News. 

However, the gun cam uses the same mount, below the barrel of a sidearm, as gun-mounted flashlights. 

"As far as that camera replacing the gun-mounted light, absolutely not," Lofton said. "We have no room for movement on that whatsoever."

There is institutional pain behind that position.

In 2011, an K9 officer was shot and killed in an attack while juggling a flashlight in one hand and his weapon in the other. That loss directly motivated the selection of new sidearms with flashlight mounts. 

"Now that we've got the increased technology and the better equipment, we're not willing to give that up, just so somebody else can sit back and watch on Youtube what's going on," Lofton said.

The PBA does agree with some of Chief Holloway's thinking about gun cameras versus body cameras. Only the most deadly or potentially-deadly confrontations are recorded, greatly reducing the data storage and public records challenges of body cams. 

"That's what everybody wants," Holloway said. "That officer pulled a gun today, here you go, here's the videotape." 

If the flashlight conflict can be resolved, the police union will also be on board. 

"I think, when the gun comes out of the holster, that only happens when there's something serious going on," Lofton agreed. "I think that would be an acceptable time."

Lofton also said rank-and-file officers have few reservations about another camera initiative. The department will soon began installing dashboard-mounted cameras in all of its patrol vehicles.  Right now, only the street crimes and DUI units have dash cams.

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