Florida Senate Considers State-Wide Body Cam Legislation

TALLAHASSEE-- Thirteen Florida police agencies are already using body cameras. Nine more are in the pilot stage of adopting them, but each agency is setting its own guidelines, which lawmakers hope to change.

At their best, body cameras show what an officer is seeing and eliminate questions about a case. And while more than a dozen agencies are using them in Florida, there are no statewide guidelines on who, how, or when they can be worn.

Legislation approved by he Senate Criminal Justice Committee hopes to provide those answers. Among the issues discussed: What happens to the accidental video shot during a coffee break.

A strange coalition of police who packed the room, civil rights advocates, and even public defenders like the legislation.

"We wanted a consistent policy on these body cameras because of the privacy issues that are in front of all of us," Bob Dillinger, 6th Circuit State Attorney, said.

Pasco County says people are already protected by policies it has in place, like how long videos are kept.

"It depends on what type of video it is," Pasco Co. Sheriff's Legal Adviser Jeremiah Hawkes said. "If it's for a misdemeanor, we'll keep it for whatever the statute of limitations is for a misdemeanor, so two years. For certain felonies, we'll keep it longer. If its related to a homicide or sex case, we'll keep it indefinitely."

The guidelines legislation is one of two bills dealing with this new technology, a second is much more troubling for civil rights advocates.

The second bill gives almost compete control of who sees what and when to police.

"Even if someone is shot and killed by a police officer, the so called privacy considerations are going to trump the public's right to know," Michelle Richardson, with the American Civil Liberties Union, said.

While civil rights advocates worry about cover ups with the second piece of legislation, police are supporting both bills.