If the Miami Police Department is going to equip its officers with body cameras, it won’t be without a fight from its union.
Fraternal Order of Police president Sgt. Javier Ortiz, in an open letter Thursday to Miami’s city manager, ripped a “reckless” pilot program that has several dozen officers wearing cameras that record their interactions with the public. Department brass recently purchased 50 Taser cameras to deploy among the roughly 1,150-member department as part of a University of South Florida study of body cams among large police forces. Asst. Chief Rodolpho Llanes said the department gave motorcycle traffic cops and police on the department’s problem-solving team the cameras, and will have a conversation about whether to expand their use after the study is completed in about a year.
But Ortiz wrote in his letter that the department -- which recently suspended a cop over issues related to the use of his own, personal dash cam -- is rushing the initiative without an established set of rules and guidelines or proper training. He also argued the potential millions needed for record-keeping and related personnel under an expanded program would be better spent on improving pay and benefits.
“The poor excuse that this is a pilot program means there are no rules and it’s just a free for all,” Ortiz wrote. He added that if police brass is serious about transparency, COMPSTAT meetings, during which crime statistics are discussed, should be videotaped.
Llanes said he understsands Ortiz’s arguments, which are similar to those from police unions in Miami-Dade and Miami Beach, where officials are considering or implementing body cameras. But Llanes said Miami is just testing the waters.
“Rolling out a 600-camera system is different than rolling out a 50-camera system to see the effects,” he said.