Commissioners vote to equip Hillsborough deputies with full-time body cameras

Before the death of Floyd, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said they were prepping for body cameras only activated by a drawn weapon.

But it was Floyd’s death that seemed to cause a change of heart. “I think there’s an outcry for our public to be more transparent,” Chronister said. 

On Wednesday, Chronister asked county commissioners to approve full-time body cameras. 

“I think there’s an opportunity to take a giant leap, not a step, a giant leap forward to building trust through transparency,” he explained.

He received nearly widespread support. “If we don’t do this, I feel that we’re going to have some feedback that we would not want to have,” said Chairman Les Miller. “I know it’s going to be additional costs, I’m going to hear what the other commissioners have to say.”

Every commissioner voted yes except Stacy White, whose concerns lied not only the $9-$14 million dollar price tag but also privacy concerns.

“Because of Florida’s incredibly broad public record laws, that video would likely be a public record, that’s available for all the world to see,” White said. “Given that we haven’t had problems documenting those incredibly few, that incredibly small number of bad apples out there in law enforcement. We haven’t had an issue documenting those cases, we have the cost issue, and we have Florida’s very broad public records laws that could impact our law-abiding citizens, I just cannot support full-time body cameras for that reason.” 

Many other local agencies remain right now without body cameras. Clearwater PD, Polk, Pinellas and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Offices do not have them – St. Petersburg Police Department is testing five out right now, and Tampa PD is moving forward with purchasing 650-body cameras.
Chronister broke down when his cameras would be rolling.

“Every time a deputy would be out of their car, obviously lunch breaks, bathroom breaks, but the policy would be every time they’re in their course of duties, that camera would have to be activated,” he said.