Gainesville Police Advisory Council Continues Conversation On Body Camera Usage

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Gainesville Police Advisory Council members brought up concerns over the Gainesville Police Department’s body camera usage during their meeting Wednesday night, and the department responded by trying to put them at ease.

The concerns follow a discussion about body camera usage in a prior meeting.

Councilmember Keyon Young advocated throughout the meeting for fair body camera usage. He asked, for example, how many times the department has seen officers deactivate their cameras and how many officers have been reprimanded as a result.

According to Gainesville Police Department Chief Inspector Jaime Kurnick, these deactivations were non-existent.

“We did not have any issues with activation within our internal affairs department,” Kurnick said.

Young also presented concerns about the timeliness of body camera recordings.

“There may be some instances where the body camera — they may not necessarily turn it on and it may lead to a delayed reaction,” he said.

Kurnick cleared up misconceptions, saying cameras begin recording incidents about a minute before they are actually turned on, leaving no time for delays or discrepancies.

“So from January 1st to April 21st, we had over 32,000 videos and we had no misuses of activations of cameras at that time,” said Kurnick.

The police department conducts two video reviews per month and plans to hire two more staff members to help oversee the body camera footage.

Young still feels the body camera system could be more transparent. Federal and state rules like Marsy’s Law exist to protect victims and their families, Kurnick said.

These laws also prevent Gainesville Police Department from releasing body camera footage that is part of an ongoing investigation, she said. Until these open investigations are closed, releasing the body camera footage could be considered interfering with the proceedings.

Young feels that these rules are unfair; he says these regulations make it easy for law enforcement officials to conceal information. He emphasized that federal reforms could make access to this body camera footage more fair.

“The federal government could take this over nationwide — build a whole database, higher people do everything and affect the manner to where you have people that review the camera effectively, keep footage that you don’t need,” he said.

In addition, he highlighted his hope for more attention and staff dedicated to looking over this footage at the department. He said this would help notice any issues or disputes law enforcement officials are involved in right away.

Young said he will continue to fight for complete body camera transparency and reform within his community.

“It’s on us,” he said. “It may take 5 to 10 years, but if you push, it’s going to happen.”

About Violet Comber-Wilen

Violet is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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