St. Pete police considering body-cameras

St. Petersburg police officers will not be issued body cameras for at least a year. 

However by next August, Chief Tony Holloway will be one of the best educated cop bosses in the country on the subject: He is a co-chair of a newly-created American Bar Association Task Force on body cameras. 

"This is a great opportunity for me because I'm going to be sitting there, so I'm going to get all my questions answered," Holloway told FOX 13.

Other members of the task force represent law enforcement unions, civil rights advocates, prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys. 

"Those are the people... that'll be litigating this in court -- so I'd rather get it from the horse’s mouth so to speak to find out where are some of these loopholes that are going to be out there," Holloway said.

The police chief thinks body-worn cameras are inevitable.

"We're going to start testing the body cameras in house," he explained. 

A variety of cameras will be tested in the training division to compare performance features. However none will be deployed in the field until the ABA's report is finished in August 2016. 

"In house is going to tell me exactly what they can and cannot do," Holloway said. "This committee is actually going to tell me within the law now what we can and cannot do." 

He also repeated reservations voiced in the past about how to store the volumes of video that will be recorded and how to handle public information requests.  Privacy issues are also involved.  "The biggest question is when do you turn it on and when do you turn it off?" Holloway added.

The ABA's study will influence police policies nationwide, but Holloway is in a position to bring it home: He sits on the Florida Bar Association's board of governors. 

Bar associations' recommendations carry a lot of weight because many state and federal lawmakers are attorneys and view their studies as credible. 

"They have the ability to get all of the interest groups together without necessarily having an agenda," immediate past-president of the Pinellas Bar Association told FOX 13. "Hopefully the bigger the group, the more wide the group's interests are, the better result, more buy-in, and the better use of the cameras."

Chief Holloway also has a personal interest in the issue:  "I want to take it to the next step: If I expect all of my officers to wear body cameras, then guess what? Me and all my command staff will wear body cameras because we're out on the road."