Police body camera debate reaches social media

The latest in the debate on body cameras

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The battle of words about mandated body-worn cameras for Jacksonville police officers is years old.

The latest missive came Tuesday evening when the local Fraternal Order of Police President, Steve Zona, took to Facebook with the following post:

Zona's post followed a hearing regarding an Unfair Labor Practice claim by the FOP. Both the union and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said separately Wednesday that they expect and welcome body cams.

"The FOP, on the national, state, and local level, we don't oppose body cameras," Zona asserted to First Coast News.

"No matter the outcome, we're still going to move forward on the body camera program," echoed Sheriff Mike Williams.

The counterparts even hinted that they might, in fact, find themselves fairly closely aligned when it comes to the language of whatever policy arises.

"We want input from a variety of sources to include the union," Williams added.

Zona also conciliatory words: "We may not have a problem with Sheriff Williams," he said.
 
But, apart from any differences the sides might discover, there's the overriding disagreement about how to pursue an agreement. The union wants a formal collective bargaining process, JSO doesn't.
 
"While we want them involved in the process, to have a piece of equipment or something to be exact in collective bargaining is not our position," Williams hedged.
 
Zona and the union say there's simply too much at stake to leave the end result to an informal agreement. He fears the door would be open to petty abuses.
 
"Sometimes you don't get along with your supervisor and you have bad days," he offered hypothetically, "And, that draft policy in there allowed the supervisor – whether it was a lieutenant or sergeant or whoever it may be – to go back and hunt-and-peck through, potentially, your entire career of body-worn camera footage, and find stuff to discipline you on."
 
Sheriff Williams dismissed that likelihood: "So, the fact that someone's trying to create an opportunity to discipline more officers, that's not the case.
 
Zona went on to say that even a smooth agreement process, without collective bargaining, could paint the union into a permanent corner of vulnerability under a future sheriff's regime.
 
"Because if we [negotiate without collective bargaining], we waive our rights to collectively bargain it forever," he cautioned.
 
A protocol of potential appeals following Tuesday's hearing means a decision - and ultimately a police body cam agreement - is still probably months away.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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