FMPD outfits all officers with new bodycams

Posted at 4:41 PM, Feb 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-21 19:46:21-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Fort Myers Police Department announced their new body camera program, Tuesday, which will require every patrolling officer to wear new bodycams which work in tandem with Tasers.

Chief Derrick Diggs was proud of the initiative, which advances the departments' mission to promote safety, transparency and accountability. They are one of the first and few agencies in Southwest Florida to take this step, adding 142 Tasers and bodycams to their tool belt. "The video recorded will protect from false allegations, misconduct and abuse against officers," he said. "It also increases and enhances accountability of the police officers for the citizen's we're sworn to serve and protect in this community."

Policy will be strictly enforced with the new cameras. According to Chief Diggs, the cameras will essentially be a part of the officers uniform. "Cameras will be turned on during any type of police interaction. If they are not turned on during police interaction and we find out about it, disciplinary action will be taken upon the officer."

Chief Diggs said there may be exceptions for emergency situations, when an officer must move quickly and does no have time to turn on the camera (for instance, an active shooting or immediate physical threat.)

Officers will have access to watch video with a viewing device that comes with each bodycam and Taser. They, however, will not have access to delete video, or tamper with video, according to Chief Diggs. 

The cameras are also designed to automatically start recording when a Taser is deployed. If another officer is nearby, his camera will also automatically start recording, allowing investigators to view every angle of an incident.

Many praised the new tool, but some said the price was steep. The city invested over 1 million dollars in the project. "I want to see it [the use of body cameras], but the company that they're going with, maybe they should have put it out for a better bid if it's a million dollar contract," said resident Robert Leisure. 

However, Lt. Jay Rodriguez told Fox 4 the department would actually be saving money in other ways. "When you take info account lawsuits, especially frivolous lawsuits about people making allegations that the officer did this, you're going to see a major increase in savings on that side."

Training for use of the body cameras has already begun. All patrolling officers are expected to be equip with the new body cameras and Tasers by Friday.