OKEECHOBEE — Recently, in Hendry County, deputies were involved in a shooting and Sheriff Steve Whidden was quoted as saying, “I cannot say a lot about the evidence or details of the shooting; however, I will say, do not believe everything you see and hear on Facebook or on the news. People will lie. Body cameras do not.”
In Okeechobee County, neither the county nor the city officers have body cams. Police Chief Bob Peterson said the cameras themselves are cheap, but the administrative costs associated with storing and maintaining the amount of video files that would be generated are prohibitive.
Sheriff Noel Stephen said: “The issue and the concern that I have had is in the records retention and how long to retain those records. The amount of storage you have to have to keep that video, and then you have to have the ability to fuzz out those who can’t be identified.” He went on to explain it would almost take a computer expert to utilize it. He agrees it would be a big help in solving crimes and protecting his deputies, but there are a lot of problems and questions that have to be ironed out, and COVID-19 has slowed everything down, he said. He is waiting to find out how long they are supposed to keep the records, too.
“We are in a 35-year-old facility. Technology is on us. There is nothing built for technology in this building. We have servers in racks in offices in closets that are really not suitable for that. I’m really not set up to add another rack to add eight servers to hold video data that comes from those videos. Therein lies my problem. Those kinds of things are being addressed as we talk about expansion. I’m hoping by that time, there will be records retention laws and laws pertaining to body cameras and those kinds of things.”
Okeechobee deputies had their own officer-involved shooting on May 12 when a wanted felon allegedly pulled a gun on them as they attempted to take him into custody. The detective involved in the shooting was placed on administrative leave pending investigation.