ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Months after an deputy-involved shooting sparked protests in Orange County, partially because the deputy who fired his weapon did not have an assigned body camera, 9 Investigates has learned that every Orange County deputy who works with the public has now been equipped with a bodycam.
That includes specialty units like SWAT, fugitive task forces, and felony warrant units.
At the time of the deputy-involved shooting death of Salaythis Melvin, the deputy who pulled the trigger was one of around 500 deputies in the agency not yet assigned a camera.
The move by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office follows both the Volusia Sheriff’s Office and Orlando Police Department in giving SWAT officers body cameras.
Orange County Sheriff John Mina admits a lot has changed in the last two years, with additional public scrutiny on law enforcement. He said this move will protect both the public and the deputies on the streets serving some of the most dangerous warrants.
Mina says in 2020 alone, 31 citizen complaints against his deputies were able to be cleared by body camera evidence.
“Everyone sees the protection it provides for law enforcement and the community,” Mina said.
But 9 Investigates has told you that not every sheriff has made the same move. Osceola and Seminole’s SWAT teams still don’t use body cameras, citing battery life issues, heavy vests that limit room for the cameras, and the fact that the cameras could collect sensitive intelligence information as reasons not to wear them.
“Talking to our attorneys, we are able to work through a lot of that,” Mina said. “If there’s something on that footage that we don’t think should be seen by everyone in the public that would jeopardize our safety, or safety of future operations, we aren’t going to release that footage.”
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office plans to equip its deputies, including the SWAT team, with body cameras this year.