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Police department receives grant funding for in-car, body-worn cameras

According to Port St. Joe Police Chief Jake Richards, the city’s police department will soon be equipped with dashboard and body camera technology.

At the Board of City Commissioners’ most recent meeting, Richards informed city officials that PSJPD had secured grant funding from the state that will be used to cover the cost of the cameras.

“I had three grants that I applied for. All of those have been approved, and as of yesterday, FDLE told me we should be getting the final approved (versions) soon for the mayor to sign,” Richards said. “Part of that was for in-car cameras for all of our patrol vehicles, and since February, with the latest stuff about body cameras, we’ve been demoing four different vendors’ technologies, and I think we’ve narrowed it down to one.”

At one time, all city officers were equipped with body cameras.

But the PSJPD had to suspend using the technology when information storage and public records request costs became too high in 2015.

Richards said he first began looking into potential grant funding after the issue of lacking cameras was raised by a citizen at a city meeting in July, 2022.

At that meeting, Marquita Thompkins, a Port St. Joe resident, voiced that she felt without body cameras, the police department lacked the available resources to be truly transparent.

“I just want to ask that our officers, our law enforcement officers, be equipped with body cameras, just for transparency,” she requested of the city commissioners. Her request was followed by about 20 minutes of discussion that ended with RIchards agreeing to look further into funding options.

The grant the city received is offered to small rural and tribal governments by the state. It is a 50-50 grant, in-kind, meaning the city will be responsible for making up the other half of the funding. 

Richards said in January and at the March 21 meeting that this could likely be done with the Police Department’s existing budget.

“With quotes and everything after purchasing in-car cameras, I think we’ll be able to get body cameras also for probably a little over $2,000,” he told the commissioners last week.  “And then the maintenance and storage fees, I will not have to ask any additional money on my budget until probably year three because I already have some money budgeted in that direction.”

Richards said he expects to be able to update the commissioners on progress on the matter in upcoming meetings.