What a difference bodycams make

Filed under DAYTONA BEACH, LEAD STORIES, NEWS

Incidents in Daytona show importance of police officers using body cameras

BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
DAYTONA TIMES

Members of the Daytona Beach Police Department responded to a call on Sept. 25, 2013 around 2:45 a.m. in reference to a domestic dispute. The officers kicked down a door and saw 32-year-old Jermaine Green with a knife at his girlfriend’s throat.

A bodycam is shown on the left shoulder of an officer with the Daytona Beach Police Department.(DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./DAYTONA TIMES)

A bodycam is shown on the left shoulder of an officer with the Daytona Beach Police Department.
(DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./DAYTONA TIMES)

After instructing Green to release her, Green instead raised the knife in a motion that suggested to officers he was going to stab Katrina Johnson. The two officers shot Green several times, saving Johnson.

The officers did not attempt to move Green while they waited for paramedics to arrive. They didn’t know if there was a weapon underneath his body.

According to reports, angry residents gathered at the scene. Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood was quoted at the time as saying, “There’s at least 100 residents out screaming at me as I get out of my car that my officers gunned down a guy lying in bed.”

Green and Johnson both survived the incident.

A video recording with audio of the incident showed what really happened that morning, thanks to body cameras that Daytona Beach police officers wear. That video was uploaded to YouTube and viewed worldwide more than 100,000 times.

“The video shows exactly what happened,” said DBPD spokesperson Jimmie Flynt. “He was about to stab her and officers had to take appropriate action to prevent death or serious bodily injury. There were people complaining … once they saw the video, there was no question.”

Unlike the recent event in Ferguson, Mo. where unarmed 18-year-old Mike Brown was gunned down by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, there is no video of what took place during the final moments of Brown’s life.

“Eventually the chief would like to have every police officer with the Daytona Beach Police Department equipped with a body camera. Now is that going to happen? We don’t know, but we would love to have that,” Flynt continued.

Funding for the “bodycams” come from drug money that is seized. The funds can go toward these cameras or other technology.

Flynt says that opposition to the bodycams has been minimal.

“Some people say it’s big brother watching you, but the cameras aren’t on all the time. If the officer is out eating lunch, the camera isn’t on. He’s not recording anyone’s conversation or anything like that.”

By the numbers
The United States Census 2010 showed that Daytona Beach’s population includes 40,513 Whites (approximately 65 percent of the population); 17,300 Blacks (27.7 percent,) 3,346 Hispanics (5.5 percent) and 1,690 Asians (2.71) percent with the remaining belonging to the other category.

In Daytona Beach, the mayor is Black as are two city commissioners; there are three White commissioners.  There is a Black councilwoman serving on the Volusia County Council and five Whites, as well as a Black school board member.

Additionally a Black official in the Florida House of Representatives represents the area.

According to Flynt, as of today, there are 212 sworn active officers on the force. The breakdown is as follows: 1 Asian male, 24 Black males, 10 Hispanic males, 133 White males, 4 Black females, 3 Hispanic females, 1 two or more races female and 36 White females.

In contrast, Blacks are almost 70 percent of Ferguson’s population. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there are 14,297 Blacks and 6,206 Whites; 22 percent live in poverty; the mayor is White; there is only one Black on a 6-member city council (.096 percent); three Blacks out of 53 policemen (5.6 percent); and the St. Louis suburb is the sixth most segregated city in the U.S.

In this year’s elections, only 12.3 percent of eligible voters actually voted (17 percent White, 6 percent Black); 11.7 percent in 2013; and 8.9 percent in 2012.

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