July 16, 2014
By Julie Montanaro
Dashboard cameras in Tallahassee Police cars are breaking down at a rate of one a month, according to a city budget synopsis.
Right now there is no plan to repair or replace them and no money set aside in the upcoming city budget to pay for it.
A Tallahassee Police spokesman says right now 50 of the 161 patrol cars on the road have dashboard cameras and video recording systems. That’s about one in three.
Yet a TPD budget summary says “With expiring warranties and an attrition rate of approximately one unit a month … the department will no longer have in car cameras for patrol cars by the end of FY16.”
“I think it’s a no brainer,” Cristin Malone said. “Why would you not put money in funding for that? I mean you could miss something at any moment if the cameras fail.”
“They all should have cameras in the dash boards. I thought they had them already since everybody else in the country’s got them,” Frank Fazio said.
“The general public thinks everybody has them, and frankly I think everybody should,” said Matt Willard, who heads the Tallahassee chapter of the Florida Association of Defense Attorneys. “I think it’s a money saver in the long run because you’re going to have a lot less cases going to trial. They’ll settle because the evidence is what it is, you can see it for yourself and you’re going to spend less time on internal affairs investigations when people are accusing officers of doing something inappropriate.”
According to the city’s budget and policy director Raoul Lavin, TPD asked the city to set aside $654,000 for new video recording systems this year and commit to a five year outlay of just over 1.5 million dollars. Right now, Lavin says, there is no money budgeted for it.
Police Chief Michael DeLeo says the department’s budget this year is six additional officers. That is in the budget.
DeLeo says if the city does not allot for the dashboard cameras, TPD will have to explore other solutions.
“We’ll continue to try to find something, whether it’s in car cameras, body cameras or something else, so we can record and document the interactions with officers,” Chief DeLeo said. “It’s a great accountability tool and helps give confidence to the community to say, “This is what happened.”
The city’s budget proposal is still a work in progress. There are public hearings scheduled September 10th and 22nd.