Mayor pushes for police body cameras, accuses union of stalling

Miami-Dade County allotted $1 million for police body cameras

MIAMI-DADE, Fla. - While the money has been budgeted, conflict continues over policy that will govern police-worn cameras in Miami-Dade County. 

The county commission allotted $1 million for the purchase of the first 500 body cameras and Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he is moving forward with governing policy, despite several attempts to involve the county's police union. 

"They say 'Oh, we can't meet for a month, we can't meet for three weeks, we can't meet until May.' You know, we're through with that," Gimenez said of his attempts to sit down with the Police Benevolent Association and hash out policy regarding body-worn cameras.

The organization's president, John Rivera, called Gimenez "delusional" when it comes to the allegations the union is stalling.

"The mayor is wanting to go super fast for political reasons. We want this thing done right so that we don't have any problems going forward," said Rivera, who adds he still has a great deal of concerns when it comes to privacy and training.

"Everybody thought Tasers were supposed to be the cure all for firearms until, of course, people started dying. Now everyone is criticizing Tasers," Rivera said. 

Rivera goes on to argue the mayor's attempt to get body cameras on the streets is politically-driven as his re-election campaign nears. 

"He knows very well that I asked the police director to look into body cameras years ago," Gimenez said, dismissing Rivera's claims.

Gimenez adds, "My job as mayor is to protect the citizens and also the good police officers who are wrongfully accused many times. That camera works both ways."

Body cameras will help enhance trust between police officers and the community they serve, Gimenez said. 

Local 10 traveled to Daytona Beach, where 100 of its police officers are using body cameras.

So far the body cameras are helping reduce the amount of complaints against officers, said Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood. 

In a couple of cases, Chitwood said the body cameras have cleared officers and in other cases, cameras have proven bad behavior on the part of the officers.

"You just can't show the good stuff, you have to show the bad stuff, because there are bad stuff and we've had that," Chitwood said. 

Since they started using body cameras, Chitwood said they have fired one officer, another was reassigned and others were retrained. 

"The ones [officers] who worry about it are what the term I'll use are 'organizational terrorists.' They're the two percent of the officers who give the other 98 percent a bad name," Chitwood said. 

Gimenez expects to have policy in place and cameras out on the streets within the year.

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