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A new attitude on body cameras in Winter Springs

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Winter Springs has a new outlook on police body cameras. It’s just a matter of finding the money, said new police chief Matthew Tracht. At a diversity workshop this week the successor to longtime chief Chris Deisler said “we’re looking into it.”

Police body cameras are in place in all but one city in Seminole County, Mayor Kevin McCann said. That city is Winter Springs.

That may have been, in part, due to past attitudes in the department, McCann said.

“With a new police chief comes new attitudes sometimes, and I will tell you that there has been a shift in attitudes,” he said. “The police department and the chief are now advocates for body cameras as opposed to resistant to body cameras. So there has been a shift.”

“I support them,” Tracht said. “The officers want them.”

A 2016 Cato Institute study showed 89% of Americans support requiring police officers to wear body cameras. A 2021 joint study by the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the Council on Criminal Justice’s Task Force on Policing showed complaints against police dropped 17% in departments that deployed the cameras, and use of force dropped 10%.

Resident Gina Shafer, who said her husband is a former police officer, said she thinks the cameras are effective in keeping people civil.

“When people know that they’re being recorded they act a different way,” she said.

The price is a major hurdle, Tracht said, with City Manager Shawn Boyle saying just the cameras alone are estimated to cost $600,000. Other cities have pulled off buying the cameras through grant programs, two of which Tracht said the city has applied for.

The new chief also said that the city has seen crime drop during the last two years.

“Our year to date in 2022 we’re looking at a 27% decrease in our crime rate already,” he said. “Our crime statistics every month have been below our rate last year.”

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