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JSO newest tool is the use of body cameras and promise to bring accountability and transparency

After months of town hall hearings and research, Sheriff Mike Williams is now equipping his officers with body cameras.

JACKSONVILLE, Fl -- When Mike Williams was campaigning to become the next sheriff the use of body cams became a subject of discussion.

Since being elected, he has launched a pilot program that ended in the summer of 2017. Since then, there has been a lot of planning in choosing the right system.

"This body worn camera (BWC) will actually hold 12 to 15 hours of video," said Williams.

After months of town hall hearings and research, Sheriff Mike Williams is now equipping his officers with body cameras.

"This is a tool you will see in law enforcement for years to come," he said.

He said everyone in uniform, from the rank of Sergeant and below, will wear a body camera.

"We are in the process now of rolling out 250 cameras, so we will do 250 a quarter until we get them all," he said.

The program will cost taxpayers $3 million a year. He has already budgeted the expense.

The money is being used for infrastructure, which includes technology, data storage and staffing.

The goal is transparency and accountability

"I think we had good accountability prior to body cameras, this is just another tool," he said.

A first, there was some pushback from the Fraternal Order of Police, the police union, but he said that has been resolved.

"The union was concerned about how we use cameras for supervision and discipline," said Williams.

During the research, he said he polled the rank and file and most embraced the concept.

"We were 70% for body cameras," he said, " the others had more questions than answers."

He said his department has established a policy on when to activate the camera and to protect the privacy of others in certain cases.

One of the challenges with the program is data storage. He said some videos may be kept for an extended period of time, while most may be erased after a 90-day period.

"I truly believe 99.9 percent of the times you are going to catch a lot of great officers doing great work," said Williams.

He said using body cams does not create a perfect environment, but it will build trust with the community.

"The question is how do you respond to that point one percent of the things that you capture [that are wrong] and we are going to respond appropriately," said Williams.