Technology doesn’t allow Tampa police to track ‘silent’ capabilities

Axon, which makes the body cameras worn by TPD officers, said it can only track when the cameras are muted or in “sleep mode” through an individual audit of the cameras.

TAMPA, Fla. — Police body cameras and their silent capabilities are expected to be discussed at tomorrow’s Tampa City Council meeting.

The Tampa Police Department will update the committee on the progress it has made in tracking officers turning off body cameras.

However, that doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon, and that’s not the fault of the department but of Axon, the creator of the body-worn camera.

According to Tampa Police Chief Mark O’Connor, “Currently, Axon’s software does not have this capability…Since the department last appeared before City Council, we have reached out to Axon on various occasions for schedule updates realization of these functions.”

An Axon representative told 10 Tampa Bay on Wednesday that the muted video could only be tracked through a separate audit of the cameras.

“Currently, mute and sleep features are not included in these metrics from Axon Performance,” an Axon representative wrote in a statement. “However, it’s important to note that sleep and mute feature usage is captured in the device audit trail.”

In other words, the department can observe when a video is muted by reviewing any video. But there is no technology that would allow the agency to monitor how often officers turn off their body cameras while on the job.

Earlier this year, the Tampa Police Department introduced mute and “sleep” features for its body cameras, raising concerns that they could be misused during critical moments on the job.

Since the summer, the Tampa City Council has been pressuring the Tampa Police Department to track how often the cameras are in silent or sleep mode.

On November 18th, Commissioner O’Connor issued a recent update on the technical parameters, which will stop them from tracking this data for the time being.

Chief O’Connor said she implemented the mute and sleep functions at the request of the Tampa Police Benevolent Association.

“We believe police operations that operate in the light are the best operations,” said Danny Alvarez, spokesman and general counsel for the Tampa Police Benevolent Association.

Its spokesman said it allowed for discussions of private and sensitive investigations.

He has no problem with tracking mutes.

“We have no problem with that kind of transparency. In fact, I believe the officers on the street would actually think it’s been able to be traced,” Alvarez said.

Commissioner O’Connor said that until the software is improved, the department conducts regular checks to ensure that what is seen and heard on body cameras complies with TPD standards.

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