OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office says they plan to issue more body-worn cameras to their deputies this year. A spokesperson for Sheriff Marcos Lopez says that since taking office, he has ensured all members on patrol have body cameras, but there are other scenarios where sworn personnel are on the job without this equipment.
News 6 asked his communications team why the sheriff has waited until now to add additional body cameras, and we were told he was not available to explain his reasoning Wednesday. His office said he would be available Thursday to discuss some of the “issues and obstacles” he has faced.
In an email, the sheriff’s office confirmed their plan to have an additional 75 cameras online by September. The next phase would include issuing all school resource officers within Osceola County with body cameras. The sheriff will then be “ensuring that every deputy who is doing proactive police work will be utilizing a body camera.”
The sheriff’s office did provide current stats to show how many sworn personnel they have now and how many body cameras they have issued:
- Total sworn personnel: 478
- Total body cams issued: 285
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A spokesperson for the sheriff explained that there are many sworn positions that will not require cameras, such as trainers, range operators, background investigators, and community relations personnel.
News 6 looked at the department’s own body-worn camera policy which does acknowledge that cameras improve the agency’s ability to review things like arrest procedures, member and citizen interaction, and general quality control.
In April 2022, on the night of a shooting in a Target parking lot where deputies shot and killed a man, the deputies were not wearing body cameras, according to Sheriff Lopez. He has released limited details about his deputies’ response since the encounter but has said previously that they were not wearing body cameras because they were training nearby. Jayden Baez, 20, died, and two other men were injured.
Attorney Mark NeJame, who is representing Baez’s family, has called for transparency since the encounter.
“Why would you not [wear body cameras]?” asked Nejame. “And, in this case we determined, we believe there is a lot that’s been hidden.”
NeJame says in his opinion deputies should be wearing body cameras.
“There is no rational reason that I have heard in the long time that I have been advocating for this that deputies should not be wearing body cameras. And most good law enforcement would concur with that,” said Nejame.
Last week, NeJame announced his office plans to file a lawsuit against Sheriff Lopez for the deadly Target shooting, citing “excessive, unreasonable, and unnecessary force.”
At this point, it’s unclear if that high-profile case and the demands for answers that have followed have anything to do with the sheriff’s decision regarding adding body cameras.
It is important to note, not all law enforcement agencies in Central Florida use body-worn cameras. The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, for instance, does not use the cameras at all.
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