All Delray police officers will have body cameras within 5 years

The Delray Beach Police Department will equip all of its officers with body cameras within five years after the city agreed Tuesday to put nearly $1 million toward the venture.

“This is going to be the norm in law enforcement,” Police Chief Jeff Goldman told the city commission Tuesday evening. “We are just a proactive organization and we try to stay ahead of curve.”

In June, the department was the second in Palm Beach County to purchase body cameras for its officers. West Palm Beach Police are equipped with the technology.

Delray Beach police initially bought 20 body cameras and trained a handful of officers on how to use the technology. Since they began using the cameras, the department has cleared two officers of citizen complaints, Goldman said.

“Not only does it hold our officers accountable, it holds our community accountable as well,” Goldman said.

The department will receive the $1 million in phases. By 2018, all field officers will have body cameras, Goldman said.

Police-worn cameras gained momentum in Palm Beach County following last fall’s officer-involved shooting death of Corey Jones in Palm Beach Gardens, which Goldman acknowledged Tuesday.

“We were already looking at body-worn cameras, (the Corey Jones shooting) just kind of expedited it,” Goldman said.

Jones was shot and killed by then-Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja as Jones waited for a tow truck at the off-ramp from Interstate 95 on PGA Boulevard on Oct. 18. Raja, who faces charges of manslaughter and attempted murder, had arrived at the scene in an unmarked van and plain clothes.

A bill, inspired by Jones’ death and approved in March by Gov. Rick Scott, doesn’t require law enforcement agencies to use cameras, but demands that policies and procedures be set for police and sheriff’s offices using the technology.

The Delray Beach Police Department already set aside funding to hire someone to maintain the technology and handle public record requests for body camera footage.

A handful of residents spoke in favor of the body camera initiative at the city commission meeting.

“I know that shootings take place on both sides, but I think it would be an asset to our department,” said Joyce Patrick, who serves on the West Atlantic Redevelopment Coalition which looks out for the interests of the largely African-American and Caribbean neighborhoods west of Swinton Avenue. “It protects the public and it protects our officers as well.”

Emmanuel Dupree Jackson, Jr., who founded a Delray Beach nonprofit to empower youth, agreed.

“If nothing else it serves as notice to community, to residents and to law enforcement and the officers that we’re holding them to certain level of accountability,” he said.

The cameras will be mounted on the officers’ police vests and will record interactions.

The cameras will turn on when within 3 feet of a police vehicle with activated lights. The cameras will also initiate when an officer turns on his or her taser.

The footage, which will be subject to Florida’s public records law, will be fed into an evidence system, which logs when officers view, download or delete the footage.

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