Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Tampa

Tampa gets federal money to expand body camera program

Mayor Jane Castor announces a nearly $600,000 Department of Justice grant Friday.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announces federal grants Friday that will equip at least 600 officers with body cameras. [CHARLIE FRAGO | Charlie Frago]
Published Sep. 20

TAMPA — With the help of a federal grant, at least 600 Tampa police officers will be wearing blue-tooth activated body cameras within a few years, Mayor Jane Castor announced Friday.

The U.S. Department of Justice grant of nearly $600,000 will help expand the program from its current pilot status of 60 officers, which Castor began when she was police chief in 2014. The mayor’s first budget, approved by City Council this week, also includes $1.1 million to bolster the initiative.

Castor thanked the city’s federal partners for the grant and said she was “very excited” by the avalanche of federal largesse in recent weeks. Tampa has been the recipient of more than $4-million in federal grants in the past three weeks, most of it to keep lowering violent crime rates, she said.

The mayor’s police leadership applauded the move.

“We want to make a great department even greater with these cameras. It goes to transparency,'' said assistant chief Elias Vazquez. "One of the most important things in 21st century modern law enforcement is to have public trust, and to build public trust you need to have relationships. So this goes a long way toward building those relationships.”

The body camera grant will allow the city to equip officers with cordless blue-tooth activated cameras that will automatically turn on if an officer’s holster is connected. The cameras will be on unless the officer announces it will be turned off. That announcement will be recorded, said police department spokesman Steve Hegarty.

A 2017 Justice Department grant was rolled out in June that allows the police department to use audio technology to identify where a gun has been fired within 25 meters. The program is now operational in a 3-square-mile section of the city that officials declined to identify. It has already helped police respond more quickly to shootings, said Capt. Paul Lusczynski, commander of the violent crime bureau.

“We’ve already responded to three shootings that we weren’t called about where we found people shot,” Lusczynski said. He said that has helped officers render aid and hone their intelligence of areas that need more attention.

Other grants will help pay overtime, among other measures, to help police reduce violent crime.

Officer Kayla Chavis, who wears a body camera, said it has helped knock down bogus complaints and captures the entire event, not split-second video clips.

Chavis often records statements from witnesses after informing them the camera is on.

“That keeps them more truthful than not,” she said.

The blue-tooth feature only works if the body cam is connected to a holster or other equipment. Officers will also have to turn them on manually in some situations.


ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. TMCCARTY  |  times staff
    Police say it appears the girl was accidentally left inside the Jeep on Monday morning.
  2. Marileydi Gonzalez-Meza, 28, of Pinellas Park, was arrested Monday on charges of driving under the influence, driving while license suspended and driving in the wrong direction. HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE  |  Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
    Reports came in about 1:20 a.m. Monday. A trooper pulled over Marileydi Gonzalez-Meza, 28.
  3. Tampa City Council members don't agree on much when it comes to the city's eight Community Redevelopment Areas. CHARLIE FRAGO  |  Charlie Frago
    Some City Council members say the popular redevelopment tools are unfair to other neighborhoods.
  4. The graves of Caroline and Thomas Hicks are among nine found to have been moved out of the long-forgotten Zion Cemetery along North Florida Avenue. They were reburied in Memorial Park, believed to be the second African-American cemetery in Tampa. JAMES BORCHUCK  |
    The story of the pioneer Tampa family might help explain the disappearance of the place where some 800 African-Americans were buried.
  5. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and developments.
    It’s unclear when the Mazda driver started driving the wrong way on the interstate, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
  6. A surveillance photo of an alleged gunman in Tampa shared by the Tampa Police Department on Saturday, October 12, 2019. The shooter allegedly seriously injured an 18-year-old outside the Fat Boy grocery on the 1300 block of E Osborne Avenue, police say. Tampa Police Department
    The shooter was with a young boy, police said.
  7. Tampa firefighter Tanja Vidovic steps out of the federal courthouse in Tampa in during the 2017 federal trial of her sexual discrimination case against the city of Tampa. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON   |   Times]
    Tanja Vidovic will run against incumbent Joe Ayoub in the city’s March 2020 elections.
  8. A dinner guest at the Maritana Grille at the Don Cesar Hotel contends in a lawsuit filed Friday that she was seriously injured when a waiter poured some of the liquid nitrogen that he was using to prepare a dessert at an adjacent table into her water glass and she drank it. (Times file photo)
    Stacey Wagers contends she was injured while dining at the Maritana Grille last year.
  9. A Tampa company has spent nearly $8.8 million acquiring 180 acres north of Shell Point Road in Ruskin. Susan Taylor Martin
    We find the answers in our continuing look at new construction in the Tampa Bay area.
  10. A group portrait of hospital staff on the steps of the Biglow-Helms Mansion back when it was the Bayside Hospital in 1920. This photo is from the Burgert Brothers collection. Courtesy, Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System.
    Maybe you recognize the mysterious gray stone home. Here’s the story behind the Biglow-Helms mansion.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement