The Plant City Police Department was approved by commissioners to use grant funds through a Body-Worn Camera Policy and Implementation Program to Support Law Enforcement Agencies.
The community got its first update on the Plant City Police Department’s new Body-Worn Camera program this week as PCPD Chief James Bradford spoke to commissioners about seeking grant money.
Bradford said the department is currently in the process of evaluating companies for the program and is entering the final stages. The goal is to purchase the cameras and the associated technology that would be used to support the storage of the data from the cameras. During the search for a company, PCPD discovered the Department of Justice provides a grant for purchasing body worn cameras (BWC). It offers the Fiscal Year 2021 Body-Worn Camera Policy and Implementation Program to Support Law Enforcement Agencies (BWCPIP-LEA).
“Law enforcement agencies across the country and worldwide are using BWC as a tool to improve law enforcement interactions with the public,” the City of Plant City’s
agenda report read. “Some preliminary evidence indicates that the presence of BWC helps strengthen accountability, transparency, and can assist in de-escalating conflicts, resulting in more constructive encounters between the police and members of the community. BWC can be highly effective, providing an objective audio and visual record of interactions that can capture empirical evidence in the event of a crime, police-citizen interaction, or use-of-force incident.”
The funds require a 1:1 match by the grantee and the solicitation for this grant provides a cost estimate for each BWC, which does not exceed $2,000.
PCPD decided that it needs 75 cameras to start the program.
At the max award of $2,000 each that ends up being $150,000 and the City of Plant City agreed to match the $150,000 and use the funds to purchase BWC and supporting technology. When it come to the matching of the funds, $28,500 is available in the Law Enforcement Trust Fund. The remaining balance of $121,500 will come from the General Fund.
While several commissioners at the dais had questions about the body camera program, both Bradford and City Manager Bill McDaniel reminded them that the vote Monday evening was not about the program itself, but rather to give permission to PCPD to apply for the funds and to agree to match what is awarded. Further information regarding the program itself will be presented at a later date to city commissioners.
The City of Plant City announced on Aug. 31, 2020 that PCPD would begin the body worn camera pilot program on Oct. 1. The testing and evaluation period began in Dec. 2020 and Bradford said the procurement process is ongoing.
The department may receive a fraction or the full amount it is requesting so the $150,000 is the best case scenario for the application if the max awarded per camera is given to PCPD.
The submission deadline for the full application from PCPD to the Department of Justice is in July and the expectation is those selected will have the funds in October just in time for the next fiscal year.