Jan. 15--HALLANDALE BEACH -- Body cams may be the next high-tech tool for officers on patrol in Hallandale.
Commissioners have given initial approval to a yearlong pilot program that would arm the department's road officers with video cameras small enough to clip onto their uniforms.
The cameras are expected to cut down on complaints against cops and help improve relations with the public, Police Chief Dwayne Flournoy told commissioners Monday.
"We're not looking to be punitive," Flournoy said. "We want to improve our officers and our police department."
The technology is becoming popular with agencies throughout the country, including departments in Boynton Beach, Daytona Beach and Orlando, the chief said. Hallandale would be the first agency in Broward County to use it.
Most officers are reluctant to wear the cameras at first, Flournoy said, but change their tune when they realize the footage can show whether an officer acted properly in the event a citizen files a complaint with Internal Affairs.
The system would cost an estimated $95,000 in the first year. If the program is a success, it would cost $290,000 over a five-year period.
Commissioner William Julian said he didn't think it was right to put a "video leash" on the city's cops.
"The officer's judgment might be slowed because of the cameras," Julian said. "I think it shows a lack of trust in our officers by putting a video leash on them."
Flournoy assured him the cameras would help with officer training and improve accountability with the public.
City Attorney V. Lynn Whitfield says the cameras may cut down on police-related lawsuits against the city and help her determine whether to go to trial or settle a case.
"It's much easier to defend a lawsuit if I have something I can see," she said.
In December, a federal jury awarded $82,000 to a man who accused a Hallandale officer of punching and pepper-spraying him during a traffic stop in 2009.
Fort Lauderdale attorney Gary Kollin, who represented the plaintiff, praised the department for its willingness to use technology that can bring the truth to light.
If a recording shows misconduct by the officer, it can help clear the victim of criminal charges, Kollin said. If it shows misconduct by the suspect, it can exonerate the officer and help the prosecution at trial.
Commissioner Alex Lewy said he was worried about officers entering a home with cameras rolling and violating a citizen's right to privacy.
"Anyone could pull it as public record and post it on You Tube for the world to see," Lewy said.
The cameras won't always be on, Flournoy said. City officials plan to come up with a set of guidelines determining which calls should be recorded, with input from the rank and file.
"We're not going to capture every single incident," Flournoy said.
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