Mandate Body Cameras for Lake Wales Police Department

Mandate Body Cameras for Lake Wales Police Department

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Sara Jones started this petition to Lake Wales City Commission

Please use your voice to ask the Commission to use their authority to mandate the implementation and use of body worn camera for Lake Wales Police Department officers during citizen encounters for the betterment of our great city.

It has come to my attention that the matter of mandating Lake Wales Police Department officers to implement the use of body worn cameras has again come before the Lake Wales City Commission. Many months have passed since I originally stood before the commission and suggested body worn cameras as a partial solution to tensions within our community.

As a citizen of the City of Lake Wales, I want fairness, transparency, and accountability. I believe that my municipality, where I gladly fulfill my citizenship obligations of paying my taxes, voting in local elections, and volunteering my time for boards and community work, should fulfill its obligation to care for the welfare of its physicality and its citizens.

In my representative capacity as the President of the Lincoln Community Development Corporation, I have stood before the city commission on many occasions to address the tensions between law enforcement and citizens of this City. That body held a workshop where dozens of citizens came to advocate for the implementation of body worn cameras, and notably few members—other than city officials—advocated against them. During that meeting, the sitting Public Defender, Rex Demmig, appeared personally along with defense attorneys from his office to advocate for the implementation of body cameras. Private investigator Jill Tuman, of Prison Break Investigations, gave summaries of nearly two dozen reports of police misconduct, each of which the Police Department claim to have investigated and found to be unverifiable. To date, Ms. Tuman reports that no one from the Department has contacted her to get the details of those reports, which would explain the Departments inability to verify them. The community is eager to move forward with redevelopment and with a partnership with the City of Lake Wales and its various departments, and requests additional accountability so that issues of verification become readily solvable.

As an attorney and a local business owner, I know that having records is preferable to not having records. Keeping contemporaneous and unbiased documentation is always a better practice than to not. I know that, in my work as a criminal defense attorney, I have come across hundreds of cases where body worn camera footage would have easily solved disputes over whether people made particular statements; people’s appearance, demeanor, and affect; whether officers committed acts of misconduct; and other factual disputes. I have successfully defended cases where the state, through the Judicial Administration Commission, incurred great expense to prove that officers, wittingly or otherwise, committed acts of misconduct. Those cases might not have been filed by the State Attorney’s Office, saving judicial resources, had there been video evidence.

During my short time prosecuting cases, I was able to see first-hand how body worn camera footage was a benefit to all parties. That truth has extended to my work as a criminal defense, family law, and personal injury attorney. The reality is that using body worn cameras have long been acknowledged as a superior practice, and the federal government has issued updated reports to instruct on their effective implementation.[1]

We must utilize best practices if we are to live up to our claims of excellence. Body worn cameras aid in officer training by allowing trainers to use actual encounters to instruct trainees on proper procedure and create inquiry into how to better provide law enforcement services[2]; they aid in accountability by giving the most accurate account of police-citizen encounters currently available[3]; they provide the State with evidence with which to effectuate prosecutions in a way that facilitates judicial economy[4]; and they create trust between law enforcement and the community[5].

I sincerely hope that the Commission considers each of these factors as well as the fact that body worn cameras are an investment in our city and not simply a line item on a budget report. Please use your voice to ask the Commission to use their authority to mandate the implementation and use of body worn camera for Lake Wales Police Department officers during citizen encounters for the betterment of our great city.

[2] “Many police agencies are discovering that body-worn cameras can serve as a useful training tool to help improve officer performance . For example, agencies are using footage from body-worn cameras to provide scenario-based training, to evaluate the performance of new officers in the field, and to identify new areas in which training is needed . By using body-worn cameras in this way, agencies have the opportunity to raise standards of performance when it comes to tactics, communication, and customer service. This can help increase the perceived legitimacy and sense of procedural justice that communities have about their police departments.”
[3] “In 2014, researchers at Arizona State University (funded through the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Smart Policing Initiative) found that officers with body-worn cameras were more productive in terms of making arrests, had fewer complaints lodged against them relative to officers without body-worn cameras, and had higher numbers of citizen complaints resolved in their favor.”
[4] “From an efficiency standpoint, the use of the technology reportedly enabled officers to resolve criminal cases faster and spend less time preparing paperwork, and it resulted in fewer people choosing to go to trial.”
[5] “We have found that body-worn cameras can actually help strengthen trust and police legitimacy within the community,” said Chief of Police Hassan Aden of Greenville, North Carolina . To illustrate this point, Aden shared the following story: A local community group approached me with a genuine concern that certain officers were racially profiling subjects during traffic stops . We went back and looked at the footage from these officers’ body-worn cameras and found that there was indeed a pattern of using flimsy probable cause when making stops . However, we determined that it was a training problem and immediately changed the relevant training protocols . The organization that had raised the complaint was happy with the outcome . They appreciated that we had the body-worn camera footage, that the officers’ behavior was investigated, and that we used the video to help us improve.”

0 have signed. Let’s get to 500!
At 500 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!