ORANGE COUNTY —
Body cameras are coming to Orange County in the form of a pilot program.
Tuesday Orange County commissioners approved a $476,000 pilot program for 50 body cams. The sheriff’s office hopes to have 600 by the end of the year.
The sheriff’s office estimates the body cams will cost about $3.5 million over the next five years. But considering recent high-profile police cases and the rise in calls for body cameras, Sheriff Jerry Demings said if the public wants it, they will pay for it.
“Some of the public says this is a waste of money, others believe this is absolutely the way to go,” Demings said.
The sheriff’s office is still working on a policy for the body cams. That includes talking about different concerns that could come up such as privacy issues and what types of crimes will be recorded.
Demings said these cameras will protect his deputies as well as the public.
“We are looking for factual information,” Demings said. “The storage, the data we are going to collect is going to be evidentiary in nature.”
Seminole County approved the cameras last fall. In Sanford the police department has been using them for over a year. They said the benefits have far outweighed the cost.
“It’s really a great benefit not only to our community but to our officers as well,” said Sanford Police spokesperson Shannon Cordingly.
In addition to transparency, the department uses the evidence which has helped the state attorney’s office.
It’s also helped to dismiss claims of misconduct with their officers and thwart what they call “bogus lawsuits,” which have cost the department in the past.
“The cost of the body cameras, they don’t even compare. They’ve definitely been overall a savings to our department,” said Cordingly.
The state legislature is looking at passing a bill that could give funding to agencies for these body cameras. Sheriff Demings also said his office will apply for federal grants. It will be a few months until the first body cams are deployed.