1. News

Body cameras to be used by all Pasco sheriff's deputies starting in February

Pasco County Sheriff's deputy Kristina Perez, a field training officer, wears a body worn camera during a press conference Thursday announcing the agency's move to issue 415 of them to deputies. [BRENDAN FITTERER | Times]
Published Dec. 12, 2014

NEW PORT RICHEY — While other Tampa Bay area law enforcement agencies evaluate and test the use of body cameras by officers, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office is going all in.

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco announced Thursday that his agency will begin using more than 400 of the cameras in February — enough to outfit every deputy on patrol.

"The Pasco Sheriff's Office would rather be out there leading the way," he said in a news conference. "If they're actually going to reduce violence on law enforcement officers and reduce complaints, I'd rather get them on the street as soon as we can."

Nocco said the Taser Axon cameras, which the agency purchased with $400,000 in federal forfeiture dollars this year, will lead to more plea deals, increased transparency and heightened officer safety, as well as the ability to critique how deputies handle incidents.

Law enforcement leaders across the country are adopting the technology after widespread criticism of police tactics following the shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by a white officer in Ferguson, Mo., this summer. Officer Darren Wilson was not wearing a body camera during the shooting.

They are not widely deployed yet in the Tampa Bay area, though some Gulfport police have used them for five years as an alternative to more expensive in-car recording systems.

Plant City police are in a trial phase, Tampa police are reviewing proposals and the city of Clearwater plans a pilot program for the spring.

In St. Petersburg, Chief Tony Holloway plans to test cameras in May or June, but like many in law enforcement he remains skeptical of their effectiveness at stemming violent confrontations.

"Body cameras are not going to instill trust in a community. It's just technology," he said. "We as law enforcement are going to have to put that trust into the community."

Critics of the cameras question their impact on citizen privacy and their efficacy in holding law enforcement officers accountable. They point to this month's decision by a grand jury not to indict a white New York City police officer who used a chokehold on a black man, a banned tactic that resulted in the man's death, even though the incident was captured on video.

Nocco said the cameras, which also record sound, will be a tool, not a cure-all.

Pasco deputies had been requesting body cameras for some time, the sheriff said. The events in Ferguson just expedited the process. Citizens often record on-duty deputies, Nocco said, and a selective, heated clip from a longer encounter can cast a negative light on deputies. Now they'll have the ability to show the "whole story," he said.

Deputy Kristina Perez, who has worn a camera for the last two months, said she noticed the behavior of several people improve when she told them they were being recorded.

"It comes from a perspective of safety: officer safety, the safety of the public," she said. "When we make good arrests, this is evidence. All that can do is help in prosecution. I'm all for it."

The sheriff cited studies from California and Scotland that showed the use of body cameras reduced complaints against law enforcement agencies, increased the rate of plea deals in cases with video, and reduced assaults against officers.

Videos will be used in training for evaluating deputy actions and finding areas to improve, Nocco said.

While patrol officers perform official duties, their camera must remain on, according to a draft policy governing the cameras. Officers must inform citizens of the recording as soon as is possible or practical.

At the end of a shift, officers will upload their recordings, which they cannot manipulate or edit, according to the draft policy. Deputies may review recordings when preparing reports and getting ready to give court testimony, but deleting files requires a written request. Deputies may also be banned from seeing a video if his or her actions are under review.

Specific rules govern privacy concerns. If a deputy responds to a private residence and finds that no crime has been committed, the deputy must turn off the camera if the resident requests. Crime victims younger than 16 may not be recorded. Adult victims of a sexual crime may also request not to be recorded.

Lawyer Craig Laporte of criminal defense firm Proly, Laporte & Mulligan, who has represented Pasco deputies, said the cameras point the criminal justice system to the truth.

"There are an awful lot of people who complain about deputy behavior, and this is an opportunity for when those complaints come in, for there to be a determination of what exactly happened," Laporte said. "I think it will discourage people from making false claims against law enforcement officers. At the same time . . . it is going to potentially reduce the likelihood that (deputies) may step over the line."

Contact Claire McNeill at or (813) 909-4613.


  1. 14 minutes ago• Transportation
    The Florida Department of Transportation is putting the final touches on a $15 million project to illuminate the Sunshine Skyway bridge. FDOT officials say the long-delayed project should be finished...
  2. Elvis Presley gets a close-up look at one of the Weeki Wachee Springs mermaids during a visit to the park in 1961. HANDOUT  |  WEEKI WACHEE SPRINGS
    From its iconic mermaids to its signature statue, Weeki Wachee Springs will be considered for historic designation.
  3. Preliminary plans for a splash park in Dade City, made possible by a recent city purchase of land for the park. Dade City
    City commissioners on Tuesday agreed to purchase land for the park and looked over early plans for the site.
  4. Milwaukee Police Officer Kevin Zimmermann bought car seats for Andrella "Lashae" Jackson's two youngest children and then installed them in her car. Facebook
    But he didn’t stop there. Milwaukee Police Officer Kevin Zimmermann also installed the seats in the woman’s car.
  5. Washington Nationals' Trea Turner, right, steals second with Houston Astros' Carlos Correa covering during the first inning of Game 1 of the baseball World Series Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) MATT SLOCUM  |  AP
    It’s part of Taco Bell’s, “Steal a base, Steal a Taco” promotion.
  6. Hernando County Government Center
    Neighbors worry about the impact on their equestrian community.
  7. Authorities found 29-year-old Sharee Bradley stabbed to death on Aug. 5. The chief says she had three children; the 12-year-old and 3-year-old were found safe, but Nevaeh had disappeared. Sumter Police Department/Facebook
    DNA from the remains found Friday has been matched to Nevaeh Adams, Sumter Police Chief Russell Roark told reporters.
  8. Cars back up at a Tampa intersection last October, not long before Hillsborough County voters approved a one-cent sales tax for transportation improvements. This week, local officials detailed how the money would be spent, if the tax survives a legal challenge before the Florida Supreme Court. URSO, CHRIS  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Local governments have plans for $527 million in projects. But the Florida Supreme Court would need to clear the way.
  9. FILE - In this Sunday, April 22, 2018, file photo, a statue of a chained man is on display at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a new memorial to honor thousands of people killed in racist lynchings, in Montgomery, Ala. Facing an impeachment inquiry that he and supporters claim is illegal, President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, that the process is a lynching. Some Republicans agree, but the relatives of actual lynching victims don’t. BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP
    Made in a tweet that drew backing from some Republican supporters including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Trump’s claim was ill-informed at best and racist at worst, they said.
  10. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    Damien Wiggins Jr. was found with a gunshot wound in the parking lot of a vacant business on Haines Road.