ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Sheriff John Mina’s latest effort to improve public trust and transparency between law enforcement and the community came in the form of a new policy.
On Thursday, Mina requested the Orange County citizen’s advisory committee review language in a body worn camera policy. The draft the committee has been tasked to review is about when the sheriff’s office will publicly release footage after a shooting by an on-duty deputy being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“It was after all the attention from the Florida Mall shooting and the release of the body worn camera related to that shooting and all the confusion from the public of why isn’t this being released,” Mina said.
The new policy of when to release footage was prompted after the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Salaythis Melvin by an Orange County sheriff’s deputy in August. According to an arrest affidavit, the deputy believed Melvin was going to pull a gun from his waistband.
“Yes it is important for us to release body worn camera video but only after initial interviews are done,” Mina said.
The sheriff’s office said they hope the policy backed by recommendations from the FDLE would put in writing what the sheriff’s office is trying to comply with.
“One of the reasons that is not recommended is because potentially a witness could see the video on TV or on the nightly news before they have testified so what that does is taint their testimony,” Mina said.
Community activist Miles Mulrain said when footage of Melvin wasn’t immediately released, it renewed criticism of the sheriff’s office.
“When it comes to body cam footage, it doesn’t have to be released to the public at first but when it comes to immediate family members, attorneys, or power of attorneys, they are the ones who should get it immediately,” Mulrain said.
Mina told the citizens advisory committee he recommended an at least three-week timeframe to release body worn camera footage.
“It is important for us to release body worn camera video but only after initial interviews are done,” he said.
It is unclear when the policy will be finalized. Mina said he plans to meet with neighboring agencies, and share the draft for review by the state attorney’s office. He said he wants everyone to be on the same page, according to FDLE guidelines. The next citizen’s advisory committee meeting is scheduled for Nov. 5.