TEMPLE TERRACE — The city of Temple Terrace will try again to equip its police officers with body cameras after dropping an earlier effort for a lack of video storage and staff to answer public records requests.
The City Council has approved the purchase of 50 body cams at $106,510 to be paid for with money from items forfeited during criminal investigations and held in the Special Law Enforcement Trust Fund. The city will spend another $22,500 for licensing and software and to add a digital evidence technician who will monitor the system. The Temple Terrace Police Department employs 47 officers.
The WatchGuard Vista HD WiFi Body Worn Camera System will complement in-car cameras already in use by the department, the city said in a news release. The body camera system should be in operation by early fall.
“Given our desire to be as transparent as possible in our law enforcement activities within the city, we are fast-tracking the purchase and necessary training in order to equip our officers with body cameras as soon as possible,” said City Manager Charles Stephenson.
The City Council approved the purchase July 7.
The Police Department started using body cameras in 2015, making it one of the first in the Tampa Bay area to adopt the technology, said city spokeswoman Laurie Hayes.
But within two years, the department discontinued the system because limited server space meant it couldn’t adequately store the video data, Hayes said. The cameras ran constantly while officers were on duty. The new cameras will be activated by the officers.
In addition, the department also lacked the manpower needed under the old system to review and redact the video in response to public records requests.
The City Council vote marked another step toward bringing Tampa Bay’s local law enforcement agencies in line with many of their counterparts in Florida and across the country.
The Hillsborough County Commission voted June 16 to allow Sheriff Chad Chronister to move forward with the purchase of cameras that would run full time, not just when a deputy draws a sidearm or stun gun as Chronister originally planned. The sheriff told commissioners he changed his mind because of public outcry over the death of George Floyd, the Black man who died at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25.
The Tampa Police Department is moving forward with the purchase of 650 body-worn cameras, one for every officer through the rank of corporal. City officials earlier in the year had decided to hold off on the purchase due to concerns about a financial hit from the pandemic. Then, Mayor Jane Castor announced on June 2 that the city would refinance bonds to help free up up money for the $7.4 million purchase.
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Staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report.
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