UPD to enforce body cams by August

University Police Department Public Information Representative Michael Lavelle said body-worn cameras will help resolve misunderstandings and prevent false complaints against officers. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/USF

The University Police Department (UPD) is expected to implement the use of body-worn cameras starting Aug. 1, according to UPD Public Information Representative Michael Lavelle.

All active patrols – consisting of 27 officers – and 15 officers of rank, such as sergeants and corporals, will use the body cameras, according to Lavelle. This totals 42 cameras that were bought and are expected to be in use. 

Body-worn cameras are a “tremendous resource” for law enforcement, according to Lavelle, because they provide factual records of police-citizen interactions. They offer full transparency and accountability of police officers or the community while also preventing false complaints against officers, he said. 

The cameras were bought from Axon – a company that develops technology and weapons for law enforcement use – and will record both audio and video, according to Lavelle. Though UPD is already receiving pieces of equipment, Lavelle said officers still have to undergo training from Axon which will include how to set up the cameras and the back end of other considerations such as video storage. 

Funded through multiple aggregate sources, including the UPD’s own budget, the cost of the project is approximately $1.3 million. Financing was secured around the end of January, according to Lavelle. However, he said that the process to convert approval to purchase is separate and this is why the process to buy and implement the body cameras may take long. 

There was also a multilevel approval process when it came to financing the project, Lavelle said. He said when the university evaluated a project “this big,” they looked at the critical needs of the institution and then began to compile the resources. 

A formal report from the university regarding the arrest of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) members Gia Davila, Laura Rodriguez, Jeanie Kida and Lauren Pineiro and USF employee Chrisley Carpio gave recommendations for the UPD, including the implementation of the body cameras. 

The group was arrested after they protested in the Patel Center at the Tampa campus on March 6. After the altercation, SDS accused UPD of police brutality, according to their Instagram page. SDS also accused UPD Chief Chris Daniel of allegedly groping one of the protesters, according to a May 18 Oracle article

Implementation of the body cameras, however, was approved near the end of January, and was only coincidental with the March 6 incident rather than a subsequent reaction, Lavelle said. 

He said UPD recognizes the value of the use of body cameras as they will help in resolving misunderstandings of police procedures.

“Every day there are stories across the country with video attached that demonstrates outstanding men and women going above and beyond to serve the communities,” Lavelle said. “Here at USFPD, that is no different. We have strong leaders that welcome full transparency as part of our community engagement.”