Florida Mayor’s Arrest Clears the Way for Body Camera Rollout

It took Hallandale Mayor Joy Cooper’s felony arrest and suspension to approve a plan to issue body cameras to community police officers.

by Susannah Bryan, Sun Sentinel / February 1, 2018
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HALLANDALE BEACH. Fla., -- Every road patrol cop in Hallandale Beach will soon be issued body cameras, the result of the mayor's removal from office in a money laundering case.

Hallandale Beach launched a pilot program in December 2015, making it the first agency in Broward County to embrace the technology and one of the first in South Florida.

But it's taken more than four years for Hallandale to embrace a full-scale program, partly because of resistance from suspended Mayor Joy Cooper, who said in December she was "not strapping cameras on men and women on our streets until they are comfortable with them."

With Cooper suspended from office after her arrest on felony charges last week, the plan won approval during Wednesday night's City Hall meeting.

A growing number of agencies are using the cameras, including the Broward Sheriff's Office, and police departments in Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines, North Miami and Miami-Dade.

Police Chief Sonia Quinones told commissioners the cameras help boost public trust and have also helped exonerate officers falsely accused of brutality.

"Everybody has a camera," Quinones said before the 2-1 vote. "So why not us?"

Commissioner Michele Lazarow, who championed the program more than four years ago, backed the $234,000 plan. So did Acting Mayor Keith London.

"I'm so glad we can give you what you need to run your department," Lazarow said. "Lawsuits can cost cities up to $1 million and $2 million. This could be the very footage that keeps us from those kind of costs."

Commissioner Anabelle Taub -- who said she was in favor of the cameras when she ran for office in 2016 -- cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she would rather hire another officer.

In December, Cooper and Taub voted against a proposal to outfit 40 officers and eight sergeants with body cams at an average cost of $46,800 a year over the next five years.

The union initially opposed the program, but now supports it, Quinones said.

Union leader Jeff Marano says not every officer is onboard.

The tiny cameras can clip onto an officer's uniform or eyeglasses to record traffic stops and other interactions with the public.

Lazarow and London voted yes on the body cams in December, but the motion died 2-2 when Cooper and Taub voted no.

Anthony Sanders resigned from the commission in August, leaving the commission without a crucial swing vote. A special election to fill his seat is planned in March.

Another special election will likely take place later this year to fill the mayor's seat.

Cooper plans to plead not guilty to money laundering, official misconduct, exceeding the limit on campaign finance contributions and soliciting contributions in a government building.

If Cooper is cleared, she can reclaim her seat on the commission.

©2018 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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