Jefferson Parish Sheriff Bucks Nationwide Body Camera Trend
GRETNA, LA (AP) — Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand says he's usually one to embrace cutting-edge technology, including drones and automatic license plate readers, but he's skeptical about putting body cameras on his deputies.
Normand said the cameras are expensive to use and flawed in terms of what they detect, The New Orleans Advocate’s Jim Mustian and Matt Sledge reports. He fears that the devices will lead the public to too often second-guess deputies' split-second decisions.
"(The public is) Monday-morning quarterbacking the discretion that an officer has and the utilization of the tools that are on his duty belt right now," Normand said in a recent interview. "We're setting our officers up, big time."
The devices, which record officer interactions with citizens, have been heralded in New Orleans and have been rolled out in smaller jurisdictions like Thibodaux and Assumption Parish. Proponents say the cameras cut down on officer complaints and boost transparency.
But Normand said most cameras do not capture an officer's true vantage point, filming what an officer's body is facing, but not necessarily what the officer is looking at.
"We've created this expectation that what the deputy sees, the camera sees, and that's not the case," Normand said.
Normand also said storage of the footage could cost $4.5 million a year.
Other police forces, however, have managed to maintain their databases on far less. NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble said the department paid $280,596 for software license, storage and service fees in 2014 and anticipates spending the same amount this year.
Gary Bizal, a New Orleans lawyer who has filed several federal lawsuits against Normand alleging excessive force by deputies, dismissed the sheriff's arguments against body cameras.
"I don't think there's anybody in the general public that doesn't agree that body cameras worn by police officers are beneficial to whoever's telling the truth," Bizal said. "The only people that don't like body cameras are people that don't want people to know what happened."