Letters to the Editor

Body cameras: The courageous way forward

Re John Rivera’s Jan. 3 Other Views column, Forget the cameras — invest in our people: As director of the Miami-Dade County Police Department, every decision that I make is made with people in mind — residents, visitors, employees, victims, witnesses and our dynamic communities. More than 85 percent of the police department’s budget is an investment in its people.

In a professional organization, there must also be an investment in infrastructure and cutting-edge technology that propels us into a position of progressive prominence throughout the region and industry. To that end, video and camera technology is everywhere in our society.

Camera and computer technology have changed our world and will continue to affect our lives in its every-day use and application. Dashboard-mounted cameras recording initial stops, roadside sobriety testing and stationary cameras inside police facilities have been in use for many years in DUI enforcement.

Cameras worn by public servants, including police officers, have a proven capacity to affect behavior in several cities that have deployed them. Once most rational people are made aware that they are being recorded, they tend to make adjustments to their activities that place them in a more favorable light.

The MDPD has been researching and studying the use of body-worn cameras on officers for almost two years and is convinced that there is a legitimate use for the technology. Departments that have used them have found a decrease in complaints of officer misconduct, use-of-force incidents and unfounded and frivolous lawsuits. Also, deadly-force encounters were more thoroughly reviewed and investigated, training opportunities were enhanced and evidence collection and crime-scene processing improved. Officers who were falsely accused of improper conduct were cleared quicker and returned to service sooner. These documented and dramatic outcomes are well worth the investment in cameras.

The openness of law enforcement to this technological tool speaks volumes to the professionalism of the MDPD and its uniformed officers on the street. Here is an opportunity to address false accusations and misperceptions that have run rampant in our communities. The cost of lost lives, destroyed communities and the perpetual cycle of distrust and discord are too high a price for any community to bear continuously. Cameras aren’t the easy way out, neither is the incessant delay or finger pointing; body cameras are the courageous way forward.

I will continue to stand for investments in the courageous members of the MDPD who do their jobs well and the technology that produces a return of public trust and confidence. A welcoming and supportive tone from the police union, its members and their president can produce dividends that all Miami-Dade County residents, employees and visitors want and deserve.

J.D. Patterson Jr., director, Miami-Dade County Police Department, Miami