The Fort Myers Police Department is outfitting all its uniformed patrol officers and sergeants with new body camera and taser technology. Police Chief Derrick Diggs said the decision makes the FMPD one of the few in Florida to outfit all uniformed officers.
By Friday, the Fort Myers Police Department plans to have all patrol officers and first-line supervisors trained on and outfitted with new body cameras and updated tasers supplied by TASER International. The department purchased 142 of the wireless devices after the Fort Myers City Council earmarked $1.5 million for the effort.
“We care about the community,” said City Manager Saeed Kazimi. “We wanted to make sure our community’s equipped with the highest technologies available and that’s what we’re going with.”
The “Axon Body 2” cameras can be turned on or off manually or will automatically begin to record if an officer activates a taser. Activating a taser will also turn on the body cameras of any fellow officers within Bluetooth range. At a Tuesday press conference, Chief Diggs said the technology has several advantages.
“The video recorded by body cameras will protect against any false accusations, misconduct and/or abuse against officers,” said Diggs. “It can assist in preventing and de-escalating confrontational situations between our officers and the civilians we’re sworn to protect and serve. Valuable evidence may be obtained accurately through witness statements and victim statements with the use of these body cameras.”
Department spokesperson Lt. Jay Rodriguez said the FMPD is also one of the first in Florida to choose yellow-colored tasers so that civilians and fellow officers can easily distinguish them from a firearm. “When an officer’s responding to me and I’ve got someone at taser point, they know this is a taser scenario. This isn’t a lethal scenario,” said Rodriguez.
Chief Diggs says officers will not have the ability to delete, alter or otherwise tamper with recorded body cam footage. Unless otherwise needed in an investigation, the body cam footage will be stored for 90 days.
The FMPD first purchased 40 body cameras in 2014. Chief Diggs said policies for the public to obtain their body cam footage and for when officers will be required to have the cameras turned on or off will not change. “The cameras will be turned on when there is any type of police interaction,” said Chief Diggs. “If they are not turned on when there’s a police interaction and we find out about it, then disciplinary action will be taken upon the officer.”
The FMPD has a five-year contract with TASER International calling for the new body cameras and tasers to be replaced after 30 months with newer technology. Chief Diggs said that the new body cameras and tasers are “just the tip of the iceberg,” when it comes to technology innovations he plans to add to the department, but declined to offer any further details.