Body Cameras on Law Enforcement in South Florida: The Good and The Bad & The Data on which Police Wear Them
In Broward County, 25% of law enforcement agencies do not have body worn cameras. The 6 cities and departments that don’t have body cameras include: Wilton Manors, Plantation, Margate, Hollywood, Coconut Creek and Davie (which also provides law enforcement for Southwest Ranches).
Why Body Cameras Are Good For Police
Tamarac was one of the very first police agencies in Broward County to get body-worn cameras in 2015.
The Coral Springs Police Department first tested wearing body cameras in 2013, with their primary purpose of recording DUI investigations - cameras then became a part of the uniform for all officers in 2016.
Broward Sheriff’s Office soon followed suit, and got body cameras in early 2016. At the time, the then Sheriff Scott Israel said body cameras were the right thing to do and said “We are a transparent agency.... We are not afraid of what goes on out in the street.” The plan piloted with 50 deputies across North Lauderdale, Central Broward, Pompano Beach and Deerfield Beach wearing cameras but had plans to extend to road patrol, K-9 units, motorcycles and special operations.
Current Sheriff Gregory Tony also says body cameras play an important role. All BSO deputies are required to activate cameras when going out on a call for service and when engaging with civilians.
“It gives us a chance to see the development” of a situation, Sheriff Gregory Tony said, noting that sometimes civilian videos may only capture a potentially aggressive end of a person’s encounter with police, but perhaps they missed the portion of the encounter where the person being arrested or handled aggressively pulled a gun on the officers, for example. See the 1.5 minute interview here.
Why Body Cameras Are Good For Criminal Defense Attorneys
When police activate their body cameras, they ensure all events that transpire between themselves and a member of the public are recorded. This holds police officers accountable for their actions, as they can't lie and make up events that are on video. Body Camera footage protects officers and civilians alike.
Body cameras are good for criminal defense attorneys because they help to capture all police activity, helping to ensure that officers aren't abusing their power. When a client’s recollection of events disagrees with the police report, the body camera video is a great resource to confirm true story. Some police officers deliberately mute their cameras, making is so that their conversations aren't recorded and held against them.
While the police use the excuse that they were having a private conversation with other officers in regards to the case (which is technically allowed), it shines a light on how easily body cameras can be manipulated. Even though there is no exact law preventing this, bringing this topic up in court is a good way for the defense to prove that nobody knows the true story due to the officer’s actions of muting thier camera.
Body cameras are also great for the defense when the police lose evidence, putting the defendant at a disadvantage. Criminal Defense Attorneys are able to bring this to the attention of the jury, explaining that they would have had the opportunity to see what had happened if not for the police’s faulty use of their body cameras. When the body camera video depicts the same story told by the defendant, the video is useful to prove his or her innocence in court. The video is also especially beneficial for times when the police have lied in their reports or testimonies, providing evidence that can be used against the State.
Why Body Cameras Are Good For The Prosecutor
Body cameras can also be a secret weapon for the State in court. Body cameras are supposed to capture all video and audio and may reveal certain events that were omitted from the police report. If a defendant has slurred speech or is argumentative with an officer, the camera will show details that were previously subjective. A defendant’s actions are also emphasized with the addition of body camera footage, like if a defendant is constantly cursing or yelling. These can be used to define character and tell a story in court, sometimes painting the defendant in an even worse light. It is important to always be polite, calm, and respectful with the police officer you are interacting with no matter what, especially so that the body camera footage cannot be used against you in any way shape or form.
Tips For Interacting With Police Officers
When arrested or pulled over in the South Florida or Fort Lauderdale area, you have the right to ensure that a police officer’s body camera is on. You also have the right to ask the officer to turn off their body camera, but their compliance depends on how serious they feel the situation actually is. If you are arrested, you have the right to request the body camera footage in order to be prepared for court or other legal situations. For Broward County, footage costs $30 an hour for the police to review and redact the video.
At the end of the day, body cameras are recording devices that store audio and video files, making it up to the individual officer to go and upload all of the videos each day into the main evidence server. There is an abnormal amount of user error resulting in loss of footage, which could be the difference between the state filing charges against a person or not. While intimidating, body cameras are used to uncover the truth of police-community interactions. Remember that you ALWAYS have the right to ask a police officer about their body camera, and that their purpose is to make sure that members of the public are not taken advantage of.
Body Cameras Worn by Fort Lauderdale Police
As of December 2018, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department has required its officers to activate body cameras whenever they are interacting with members of the public. Officers are given the discretion, however, over if they tell the public whether or not their body cameras are in use. When the cameras are on, officers must keep the camera activated throughout the entire event and document the use of a body camera if used during an interview, interrogation, or statement. Police officers are required to keep their camera on when interacting with a suspect, even if the suspect asks for it to be turned off. Officers can also turn off their cameras when talking to other police officers, which keeps what they're saying from being recorded.
Body Cameras Worn by Broward Sheriff's Office
The Broward Sheriff’s Office has also started wearing body cameras, with a policy similar to Fort Lauderdale. All cameras must be on while interacting with members of the public, but they can be turned off when necessary to make a member of the public feel more comfortable.
Body Cameras Worn by Coral Springs Police
The Coral Springs Police Department first tested wearing body cameras in 2013, with their primary purpose of recording DUI investigations. Due to the positive feedback by officers and the public, the department made body cameras a part of their uniform in 2016. The cameras are supposed to be on at all times, in order to increase transparency between an officer and whoever they're interacting with.
Body cameras are not mandated by the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, Plantation Police Department, Margate Police Department, Wilton Manors Police Department, Hollywood Police Department or Davie Police Department. Hollywood Police Department is the largest Broward County police Department that does not have body cameras.
Body Worn Cameras by Police Departments in the Broward County Area:
Broward County Sheriff’s Office:
- Has Body worn cameras. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office began using body cams in early 2016. All deputies wear them.
- Has body worn cameras. The Coral Springs Police Department got body cameras in 2020. Most or all officers wear them.
- Does not have body worn cameras. The Coconut Creek Police Department does have dash cameras. When asked if the department had plans to get body cameras, they said no.
- Has Body worn cameras. Most or all officers wear them. BSO provides all the law enforcement for Cooper City from a local district office.
- Has body worn Cameras. All officers wear them. BSO provides all the law enforcement for Dania Beach from a local district office.
- Does not have body worn cameras. Davie Police Department has no known plans to get body cameras. When asked why they don’t have body cameras, the answer was that they didn’t think their budget would allow them to adopt body cameras.
- Has Body worn cameras. The Deerfield Beach’s Sheriff’s Office has had body cameras for about a year. BSO operates all law enforcement from a local district office in Deerfield Beach.
- Has Body worn cameras. Fort Lauderdale Police Department got body cameras the end of 2018 and requires its officers to activate body cameras whenever they are interacting with members of the public.
- Does not have body worn cameras. Hollywood Police Department is not exploring getting body cameras at this time. No real reason provided as to why they don’t have body cameras. Hollywood was reportedly testing body cameras in early 2020.
- Has body worn cameras. Lauderhill Police Department got body worn cameras in 2018. All officers wear body cameras.
- Has body worn cameras. The Lauderdale Lakes department got body cams about two years ago. All officers wear them.
- Has body worn cameras. The Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Department got body cams one or two years ago. All deputies wear body cameras - the only reason a deputy wouldn’t wear a body camera is if they are brand new and haven’t received one yet. BSO provides all the law enforcement for Lauderdale-by-the-Sea from a local district office.
- Does not have body worn cameras. The Margate Police Department currently has no future plans to get body cameras at this time.
- Has Body worn cameras. Miramar Police Department got body cams sometime in 2019. All officers wear them.
- Has body worn Cameras. All officers wear them.
- Has body worn cameras. The Parkland Department got body cams in 2018 or 2019. It’s mandatory that all officers wear them. BSO provides all law enforcement for Parkland from a district office.
- Does not have body cameras. The Plantation Police Department said it has been looking into getting body cameras.
- Has body worn cameras. All officers wear them. BSO provides all law enforcement for Pompano Beach from a district office.
- Has body worn cameras. The Pembroke Pines Police Department has had body cams for about three years. All officers, except for probation officers, wear body cameras.
- Has body worn cameras. The Sunrise Police Department got body cams less than one year ago. All road patrol officers wear body cameras, but not all units - such as the canine units.
- Davie Police Department is the law enforcement agency for Southwest Ranches. There are no body worn cameras in Southwest Ranches nor by Davie Police.
- Has body worn Cameras. Tamarac Police Department got body worn cameras in 2015. Most or all officers wear the body cams.
- Has body worn cameras. Weston Police Department got body cams around 2016, it was part of a pilot program during 2016-2017. Officers always have body cameras on and when they go out patrolling, they turn on and activate their body cameras.
- Does not have body worn cameras. Wilton Manors Police Department didn’t answer if they have plans to get body cameras and didn’t answer why they don’t have body cams.
- Has body worn Cameras. Boca Raton Police Department started to use body cams in a pilot program in 2015. All the road patrol officers wear body cameras.
When talking to or interacting with a police officer in full uniform, you should notice a tiny, flashing light coming from the center of their chest. This is a body camera — a wearable audio and photographic device that records a police officer’s every move. The purpose of body cameras is to capture what actually goes down when police are involved so that there is no guessing when the video is recalled and examined.
While used as a means of documenting interactions between the police and the public, body cameras are not used to substitute an officer’s beliefs and perceptions from an event. A camera only captures the view from a particular person, and may not account for the entire situation and other participant's perspectives. However, police officers are allowed to review their body camera footage before making a decision regarding a case.
Most body cameras are attached to a police officer’s uniform by either a clip or velcro. This allows agencies to not order new uniforms when incorporating body cameras into their units but has lead to accidents with their cameras. There have been plenty of cases where an officer was chasing or fighting with a subject, causing their body camera to be ripped off of their chest. This leaves both the police officer and defendant with no evidence of the incident.
Florida law does not require law enforcement agencies to install body cameras within their units, but it does require those departments that have cameras to adhere to specific protocols and regulations. This includes proper training, correct maintenance, and careful storage of body cameras. Some law enforcement agencies choose to use body cameras as a safety net in regards to complaints about officer interactions. Other agencies, however, feel that body cameras make witnesses and members of the community uncomfortable, causing them to share less information with the police. Police officers are also supposed to wear their cameras anytime that they are on duty, in order to capture all events and interactions. Florida law also requires departments that use body cameras to follow the proper regulations on how to preserve and maintain footage within their department’s database.
Learn how to AUTOMATICALLY Record Fort Lauderdale & South Florida Police on your iPhone when you're Pulled over or Confronted by Cops in 6 Simple Steps:
More information in this blog.
How The Rossen Law Firm Has Used Body Worn Cameras To Win Criminal And DUI Cases
In July 2018, I got a call from a man named Norbert, who said that he was arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in the South Florida area. Norbert was pulled over for failing to slow down next to an emergency vehicle, as well as rapidly accelerating at a green light. The police reported that Norbert was visibly drunk, with bloodshot eyes. Norbert agreed to complete DUI Field Sobriety Test Exercises, telling the police officer that he was bitten by a shark in his butt that impaired his walking abilities. Nevertheless, the police officers had Norbert complete Field Sobriety Exercises, which were altered due to his accident. Upon further examination of the body camera footage, it was clear to me that Norbert did not have bloodshot eyes and that his normal walk matched how he completed the exercises. I was able to use this footage in court, showing how the body camera footage did not match up to the police’s story. Because of my emphasis on the contradictory body camera video, Norbert was found not guilty in court.
While driving in Weston, a man named Guillermo was pulled over for having windows that were tinted too dark. When talking to the police, the officers claimed that Guillermo smelled like weed. The police that pulled Guillermo over were actually undercover drug cops, and they were wearing body cameras during the entire interaction. The cops bullied Guillermo and tried to intimidate him into confessing that he on weed on him, but he called me instead to help get him out of the unfortunate situation. The body camera video caught the police officers violating Guillermo’s Miranda Rights, as they continued to ask him incriminating questions after he said that he wanted a lawyer. We were able to use this video to show that Guillermo was abused, as well as the fact that the police did not include their intimidation tactics in their police report. I was able to get Guillermo time served on a misdemeanor instead of the proposed felony, all because of the body camera video.
A third client that I was able to help fight his charges because of the body camera video is a man named Eric. When Eric was pulled over, the police officers found weed on him. Not just a little bit of weed but 5 pounds of weed. Eric was looking at many years in jail. The officers decided to detain Eric on the side of the road until the drug cops came, leaving him there longer than the time it would take to write a ticket. In the police report, the officers said that Eric was extremely nervous and his voice kept cracking when they would ask him questions. When I examined the body camera footage, there were many inconsistencies with the police report. Especially, Eric’s voice never cracked during the time that he talked to the police. I was able to use this video and the fact that Eric was detained unlawfully on the side of the road to prove that Eric was abused by the police. I filed a motion to suppress alleging this illegal conduct by the police. On the day of the motion, the prosecutors offered a deal that was too good to pass up. Eric agreed to a minor misdemeanor and moved on with his life.
If you, or someone you know, is arrested...
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Fort Lauderdale Office: (754) 206-6200
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MORE BODY CAM STORIES:
- See Police Caught on Body Camera Initiating a DUI Investigation in Fort Lauderdale without Probable Cause
- See Still images from Body Camera Footage of BSO Deputies Arresting a Pompano Beach man with Assault Rifles - They Claimed the Arrest was Due to a Suspended License