Sarasota Police to wear portable cameras

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Posted: Monday, August 18, 2014 10:15 pm

SARASOTA, Fla      Police in Sarasota plan to eventually phase in portable cameras officers can wear on their uniforms or even on their sunglasses.

During a recent test period, the Police Chief said it worked like a charm.

"We already had one individual make a complaint, and the officer had a camera on and it was able to exonerate the officer and show the officer didn't use excessive force and so the person actually lied," said Chief Bernadette DiPino.

But the Chief says these cameras work both ways.

"My theory is that it will modify the police officer's behavior because they know they're being recorded and also modify the behavior of the individuals because as soon as they see they're being videotaped and audio taped, it may calm them down and maybe act differently," she said.

Sarasota City Commissioner Susan Chapman says these cameras can help settle accusations fast.

"In the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, the officer says 'this person is trying to steal my gun,' the witnesses on the street said, 'no the man had his hands up when he was shot.' We have two different stories and we know eyewitness testimony is very unreliable," Chapman said.

Sarasota City Commissioners unanimously approved the Sarasota Police Department's new pilot program.

Police will buy 24 cameras from the same company that makes Tasers. They'll get the $36 thousand dollars from a federal grant.  The Chief plans to train officer, hold 2-3 community meetings to educate the public, evaluate what they've learned and ideally equip officers with cameras in three months. If all goes well after a year, they'll buy more cameras.

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