A day after meeting with members of the NAACP, the Urban League and the Souther Christian Leadership Council, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams has announced a series of town hall meetings to discuss the future use of body cameras by JSO officers.
Williams will hold six town hall meetings to gather comments from citizens.
“Face-to-face information sharing is key in planning properly for major changes, such as the implementation of a body-worn camera program for Jacksonville’s police,” Williams said in a statement. “Now that we are far enough along in our research and study of various programs and policies around the country, I am moving forward with meetings and information exchanges like the ones I had yesterday.”
Williams initially shared information with the City Council’s Health and Safety Committee on Feb. 7. Some officers will be involved in a pilot program for body cameras this year. The sheriff’s office said it anticipates a late spring/early summer start for testing.
Dates and locations of the town hall meetings have not been announced, but the sheriff’s office said they will be held before the pilot program begins.
The SCLC previously pushed for body cam policies that followed five guidelines:
Develop camera policies in public with the input of civil rights advocates and the local community.
Commit to a set of narrow and well-defined purposes for which cameras and their footage may be used.
Specify clear operational policies for recording, retention, and access; and enforce strict disciplinary protocols for policy violations.
Make footage available to the public and the media upon request.
Prohibit officers from viewing footage before filing their reports.
One of the biggest questions is when the cameras will begin recording. Some say that as soon as an officer steps out of their car at a scene, the cameras need to be on.
“We want the sheriff to listen to us,” said SCLC communications director Ben Frazier. “We don’t want him to go through the routine and act like he’s listening. We want him to listen to our proposals and consider them on their merit.”
Frazier also said transparency is key in planning and implementation of the program in order to avoid problems.
“There a very good risk that these new devices could become instruments of injustice, rather than tools for accountability,” Frazier said.