Articles

Some Cops Hate Body Cams, Loudly Voice Opposition

Although police body cameras are increasing in popularity, cops in Hallandale Beach, Fla., are not on board with the implementation.

by Susannah Bryan, Sun Sentinel / September 10, 2015

(TNS) -- Cops in Hallandale Beach, Fla., hate body cameras, a fact the city's top cop freely admits.

A letter from police union members, obtained by the Sun Sentinel, provides a rare glimpse into just how much.

City Hall plans to invest in 28 body cams come October, making Hallandale Beach the first Broward city to embrace the new technology.

But a majority of Hallandale Beach cops — 67 percent of the rank and file — oppose the cameras, according to a survey funded by the police union.

The president of the Broward County Police Benevolent Association, Jeff Marano, has not been shy about his opposition to body cams, saying they're only there to "burn a cop."

Hallandale Beach officers have railed against the cameras on social media. Now they've even turned on Marano, their own union chief. The resulting brouhaha has union reps attempting damage control.

The letter, signed by a majority of the union's membership, reveals behind-the-scenes lobbying by the union in an effort to kill the city's controversial body camera program.

The letter claims Marano promised Hallandale Beach cops he could deliver three "no" votes on the five-member commission.

"Two days later our commission voted unanimously to initiate a pilot program outfitting 28 officers with body cameras," the letter says.

Hallandale Beach's police union backed Commissioner Anthony Sanders in the November election because "he would be a critical third vote in our favor along with Mayor [Joy] Cooper and Vice Mayor Bill Julian," the letter says.

The letter attacks Marano, saying the survey came too late to influence the commission vote.

Marano said he has not seen the letter and declined to say whether he lobbied commissioners behind the scenes.

All five members of the commission told the Sun Sentinel they did not promise Marano or anyone else they would vote against the cameras.

"If I was going to be a 'no' vote on this, I would look terrible to everyone," Commissioner Bill Julian said. "The entire nation wants the cameras. Who am I to say no when departments around the country are saying yes."

Two years ago, Commissioner Michele Lazarow proposed outfitting the city's police force with body cameras.

"The public has cameras," Lazarow said Wednesday. "Our police should have cameras too, to tell the full story."

Lazarow believes the cameras will help protect Hallandale Beach officers against unwarranted complaints and frivolous lawsuits.

Hallandale Beach officers will be instructed to turn on the cameras when they respond to any incident, including car accidents and traffic stops.

Police Chief Dwayne Flournoy says it's no surprise the officers adamantly oppose the cameras.

"We expected that," he said.

Still, Flournoy hopes 20 street cops and eight sergeants will volunteer to wear the cameras. If none step up, the Human Resources department has a software program that will make random selections, he said.

Several officers have complained about low morale at the department, Commissioner Keith London said. Some blame it partly on the body camera program, he said.

Sanders said he was hoping the rank and file would get on board with the plan before the body cameras arrive.

But after witnessing a national push for cameras amid a spate of police-involved shootings and deaths, he changed his mind.

"I know we need the cameras because I've been stopped by the police," Sanders said. "And sometimes what they put in the report is entirely different than what happened. We wouldn't know some things took place if it wasn't for cellphones with video."

In the meantime, Flournoy said he has done his best to calm the troops.

"I've approached some lineups at roll call about the body cams," he said. "I think it's an opportunity for us to increase police legitimacy."

©2015 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.