Civil rights activists call to make body cameras a requirement for law enforcement

Civil rights activists are calling for many changes in law enforcement. One of the proposals resonating in Brevard County is that body cameras should be mandatory for police departments, county commissioners say. 

Melbourne is the second-largest city in Brevard County and likely soon going to require police officers to wear body cameras while on duty.

Melbourne City Councilman Paul Alfrey says the city is about halfway through the process of evaluating what kind of cameras they want to buy and what kind of software they want to use to store all of that video. He says, as an elected leader and a former cop himself, he believes body cams are necessary for transparency in a time when the public has concerns about police brutality.

"Since there are a lot of good advantages to it, like exonerating an officer or backing up a story or evidentiary value for court cases. It’s something that’s part of the job of a police officer, so that’s why I support it and that’s why we are in the policy phase in the Melbourne Police department." Alfrey says.

In Palm Bay and Cocoa, officers have body cameras already, but the Brevard County Sheriffs Office does not use the technology. 

On Tuesday, we asked Sheriff Wayne Ivey if he would like to have body cameras for his agency. He talked about the pros and cons of cameras but didn't firmly state his personal opinion.

However, this is being discussed at the county commission level, where commissioners are inquiring about the cost.

"Well cost is only one factor, but there are other factors that come into play, and one of those is the right to privacy," Sheriff Ivey said. "If I’m wearing a body camera and I walk into your home, I’m showing everything, showing everybody your possessions, your belongings, I’m showing everybody your security."

It’s not just enough to require officers to wear the cameras. Departments need to have very detailed written policy about when officers can switch off the cameras.

For instance, what should a law enforcement officer do if someone says, "I’ll talk to you, but I don’t want to be on camera." Those talks are happening in Melbourne and elsewhere in Brevard county.