PCB buying 60 body cameras for police

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Local officials recently agreed to spend $260,000 during the next five years to buy body cameras for police officers in an effort to improve safety with the public.

The purchase will provide the Panama City Beach Police Department with 60 body cameras and enough cloud storage for future recorded encounters. The department currently has 71 sworn-in officers and no body cameras. 

A Panama City Beach police officer interacts with a lifeguard.

“Our officers interact with a lot of people every day and this protects the public and the officer,” Chief Drew Whitman wrote in an email. “It can also be used as a record to backup officer complaints.”

Whitman added that despite the ongoing heat that police departments are taking across the country, largely because of documented cases of police brutality, the addition of the cameras isn’t related to any local incidents.

Instead, they will be used to provide important evidence in proving interactions between officers and the public. 

“Having the body cameras is a way to show the public we are doing the best we can to protect everyone,” Whitman wrote. “If we do have an officer not following our protocols and not reflecting our mission, vision and values, we will have proof and can address it from there.”

According to Friday’s agenda from the Beach City Council meeting where funding was approved, the cameras will be purchased from ProLogic ITS, one of six companies that submitted a request for proposal.

The RFP was approved during a council meeting in July, where it was said that according to a study from the University of Nevada, there’s a significant reduction in complaints of police misconduct and police use of force when cameras are worn.

ProLogic was recommended to the city council by a committee made up of Whitman, Lt. Clayton Jordan, Lt. Eusabio Talamantez, city information tech Jason Pickle, PCBPD information tech Jose Salcido and Cpl. Derick Poppelreiter.

In the first year of the contract, PCB will spend more than $130,000 out of its 2021 fiscal year budget for the equipment, its installation, training and one year of cloud storage and management services, the agenda added.

From years two through five, the city will pay ProLogic almost $34,000 annually to manage the cameras and store their information.

For Mayor Mark Sheldon, body cameras are something he’s wanted the police department to incorporate since he took office earlier this year.

“I think it’s imperative for the community to have public trust in our police department,” Sheldon wrote in a text. “We (want to) make sure that the public’s privacy is also ensured through this program. 

“At the same time, we want to make sure that we can always show how great of a job our officers do (in) Panama City Beach,” he added.

Source: https://www.newsherald.com/story/news/2020/09/27/panama-city-beach-buying-body-cameras-police-department/3515602001/