Corey Jones-inspired body cameras bill signed by Rick Scott


Florida police departments, such as Palm Beach Gardens’, that have their officers use body cameras now must establish policies and procedures for the proper use, maintenance and storage of the cameras and the data they record.

The new law went into effect Thursday with Gov. Rick Scott’s signing of HB 93, partially inspired by Corey Jones’ shooting death Oct. 18 by Nouman Raja, then a Palm Beach Gardens police officer who was in plain clothes and not wearing a body camera. The Palm Beach Gardens Police Department had no camera program at the time, but has since fired Raja; and the City Council voted in January to have its officers start wearing cameras.

The bill was one of 34 signed by Scott Thursday and among more than 100 he needs to take action on this week.

The law does not require law enforcement agencies to use body cameras. But if they do, the agencies must first have policies in place, including rules for storing the audio and visual data that comply with Florida public records laws.

“This will maintain the transparency we as a community crave and deserve,” one of the sponsors, state Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, said in a release. “This bill is one that really hit home for me after the death of Corey Jones, and hopefully now that it has been signed by the governor, we can hear less about lives lost and more about the unity between law enforcement and the community.”

Corey Jones’ father, Clinton Jones Sr., later said the family was pleased and thanked Rep. Jones.

“Our family strongly supports the use of body cameras as a tool to re-establish the public trust in the police,” Clinton Jones said in a released statement. “As we await the result of the State Attorney’s investigation into the tragic death of our Corey, we believe that good policies in place, such as FL HB-93, will help promote police accountability and citizen safety.”

Jones’ father, sister and some other family members came to the Capitol in February on what would’ve been Jones’ 32nd birthday to lobby in support of the measure. They also delivered a letter to Scott’s office, asking for support on the legislation and investigations underway into the shooting.

After lawmakers passed the bill this month, Palm Beach Gardens Mayor Eric Jablin said the city’s police department already had adopted policies and procedures, and that the city planned to fully implement cameras in April after wrapping up a pilot program involving 10 officers.

“We’ll probably be the first in the state to be in full compliance with HB 93, which I’m proud of,” Jablin said at the time. Of Jones’ death, Jablin said, “I wish it never happened, but I believe some good will come from it.”

Jones was waiting for a tow truck at the off-ramp from Interstate 95 on PGA Boulevard in the early hours of Oct. 18 when Raja, working a plainclothes detail, arrived in an unmarked van. Jones, who was armed with a gun, was hit three times by Raja, who fired six shots.

There is no recording of what happened.

Florida Police Benevolent Association President John Rivera praised the measure when lawmakers passed it, saying: “There are so many questions pertaining to procedures, proper use, maintenance, data storage and training that need to be addressed before body camera programs are started. There must be guidelines so that everyone knows the rules and to avoid this issue becoming a knee-jerk political issue.”

Also signed Thursday was heavily lobbied HB 819 that could ultimately lead to changes in the way the Medicaid program provides dental services, which would likely lead to higher out-of-pocket expenses for adults.

The issue centers on the state’s Medicaid managed care system, which requires HMOs to cover dental services, including services for children and adults. But supporters of the bill want to remove the dental requirement from the Medicaid system and create separate prepaid plans for dental care for children.

The bill, sponsored by incoming Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, will lead to the state’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability conducting a study of dental services and submitting the report by Dec. 1. If lawmakers don’t take action during the 2017 legislative session to keep dental services in the Medicaid managed care program, the Agency for Health Care Administration will be directed to move forward with a prepaid program.

The bill does not require the prepaid program to provide the same level of adult dental services that are currently offered under Medicaid managed care or specify the level of adult dental services that should be required, according to a staff analysis.

The bill was supported by the Florida Dental Association but faced heavy opposition from the Florida Association of Health Plans, which represents the managed care industry. The Florida Association of Health Plans argued, in part, that the bill was tilted toward moving to prepaid dental plans. That is because the change will occur if lawmakers do not take action next year.

Scott issued a letter Thursday that appeared to indicate he shared some of the industry group’s concerns, though he signed the bill.

“While I am giving my approval to this bill today, if the results of the study do not demonstrate better quality dental care at reduced costs than the net benefits provided under statewide Medicaid managed care today, I expect the 2017 Legislature to amend the statute immediately to protect Medicaid recipients and the services they receive through statewide Medicaid managed care,” Scott wrote.

Staff writer Daphne Duret and the News Service of Florida contributed to this story.




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