St. Pete PD installing dash cams on squad cars

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The St. Petersburg Police Department is adopting potentially trust-building technology.

It is in the process of installing 15 so-called "dash cameras" in unmarked police cars, with another 40 to be installed in new marked patrol cars by the end of the year.

The forward-looking camera is always rolling, and starts recording 30 seconds prior to activation.

"A lot of people are saying 'you stopped me for no reason,' so now we're going to show you why we stopped you," Police Chief Tony Holloway said. "There's no issue, 'Hey you only stopped me because I was black,' 'you only stopped me because I was a female,'" he said.

There is also a second camera inside the police cars. "It captures pretty much everything in the back seat and just outside either door," Officer Brian Burton explained. "So if there's a suspect back there trying to hide evidence, making statements, accusing the officer of saying or doing something or using force in the back seat, it's all on video and audio, so there's a really no question about it."

Burton is assigned to the department's Street Crimes Unit, which actively looks for known felons, stolen cars and other high priority targets.

Starting camera deployment in its unmarked units makes sense to local SCLC leader Jeffrey Copeland. "Understand they're out there for a different purpose than actual patrol cars," Copeland told FOX 13 News. "So they will be a little bit more aggressive than an actual patrolman will be."

Copeland agreed many of the allegations about police misconduct involve the Street Crimes Unit, which he praised for doing good work with the inherent probability of complaints. "That's where they need to be because that's where the [allegations] are going to be where he said this, or he did this to me, or she did that to me so yeah, I think that's a good place to start right there."

Chief Holloway said he is not ready to equip his officers with "body cameras" because of unresolved issues with privacy and record storage. "There's just a lot of issues that we need to address," Holloway said.

The chief also announced his agency will soon purchase at least three license plate readers, one for each district in St. Petersburg. LPR's can scan hundreds of license plates per minute, looking for stolen cars and cars belonging to people with outstanding arrest warrants or suspended driver's licenses.

That technology is made by a Pinellas company located in Oldsmar, and has been used by the Pinellas Sheriff's office since 2006 and the Clearwater police department since 2010.