NEW PORT RICHEY — New Port Richey city and police department leadership have wanted body cameras for their officers for some time now, and this week City Council unanimously agreed to spend $264,554 to make that happen.
The vote allows the city to purchase 40 body cameras and 13 cameras for police cars immediately and pay over time. The expense will be spread out over the next five years using special law enforcement funds which come from forfeitures for the first year and possibly county sales tax proceeds in the years that follow.
Council members embraced the camera idea as a way to protect their own officers while also giving citizens accountability. And while the body camera issue has been a top priority for the Black Lives Matter movement, city leaders stressed that it was on their radar long before activists from Black Lives Matter and other groups began their protests on the streets of New Port Richey.
“Every department that has police officers on its force unquestionably fields complaints about officers allegedly using their power or weapons inappropriately or outside of typical law enforcement protocols,” said Debbie Manns, New Port Richey city manager. "The chief has been an advocate for some time now to purchase a body camera system.
"The advantage of the system is that it produces a clean picture of how officers do behave in potentially contentious situations and they provide evidence,'' Manns said.
The plan to acquire body cameras "has been a year or more,'' said Mayor Rob Marlowe, but he noted that body cameras became “a critical item” after the incidents involving the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police.
“These body cameras will provide clear evidence that protects everybody around,” Marlowe said. “In my discussions with people across the political spectrum, it’s been pretty much unanimous that this is a good thing for us to invest in because it protects everybody.”