It seems that nearly every day in the news, we hear about citizens having interactions with the police. Many of these interactions are positive, though there have been many documented cases where the public found the interactions disturbing, and those incidents have raised questions about how police conduct themselves in the field.
The police in Miami wear body cameras, as do the ones in Jacksonville and Orlando. In fact, body cameras are almost accepted as standard gear for police officers in Florida, except for one of the largest cities in the state – Tampa.
Attorney TJ Grimaldi is a strong supporter of police wearing body cameras and is urging the department to fund the program to equip every officer with a camera. As a personal injury attorney who has many years’ experience dealing in cases of wrongful death, he believes that body cams should be mandatory for police.
“I am all for cameras. They help solve questions, concerns, unknown issues and protect citizens,” Mr. Grimaldi says. “Further, they protect law enforcement and solidify evidence, testimony and opinions for all parties involved. They also help create a record of events that may otherwise be confused, forgotten, or simply made up down the road.”
In 2014, Jason Westcott’s home was raided by the Tampa Police Department and SWAT after an informant claimed he was selling drugs. According to police, Westcott brandished a firearm when they entered his home, and as a result, he was shot and killed on the spot. Police seized $2 worth of marijuana in Westcott’s home. Mr. Grimaldi now represents Westcott’s mother in a negligence lawsuit against the City of Tampa.
“For the Westcott case specifically, if law enforcement were wearing body cams, the footage could answer a lot of questions regarding Westcott’s placement, his possession of a gun, and what actually took place within the home, Mr. Grimaldi says. “This could have resulted in clear cut liability or solidified their claim of a lack of negligence which could have avoided litigation in this case, either way.”
Whether or not there is evidence to suggest that wearing a body camera would have any impact on crime rates, or how wearing a camera influences police decision-making and how officers engage with the public, making body cams mandatory could provide powerful information to supply answers to questions that otherwise remain unanswered.