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Tampa police add new mute, sleep functions to body cameras

A man in a blue suit speaks at a wooden podium.
City of Tampa
Tampa Police Department Captain Patrick Messmer with the Professional Standards Bureau presented the new functions to the city's Citizen's Review Board recently.

The cameras previously only had two modes: on and recording, or powered off.

The Tampa Police Department has revealed two new functions for body cameras worn by officers: mute and sleep options.

During a Citizen's Review Board meeting recently, Tampa Police Department Captain Patrick Messmer from the Professional Standards Bureau announced what he called “minor” changes.

The mute function would allow the officer to record video, but not audio.

"So there are instances where we're having tactical briefings or otherwise sensitive briefings — supervisory conversations and things like that — outside of earshot of any citizens or things of that nature, any kind of discussion that potentially could be privileged under the law,” Messmer said.

He said this way, officers can have their private conversations without being accused of turning off their cameras to use excessive force.

The sleep function will allow officers to briefly pause recording without having to go through a minute-long reboot process.

"It’s a feature to where the officer can still press the button and it will almost immediate start recording again," Messmer said, "but it doesn't have to go through the whole power up process. The issue was that we don't want video to potentially not be captured if an officer has to power down their camera."

Messmer said before the sleep function, someone upholstering their taser nearby, or a police car with its lights and sirens on rushing by, could activate all the body cameras in a certain range, exposing officers during private situations like using the bathroom.

Messmer said it’ll prevent officers from ever fully powering down their cameras while on duty.

Both functions have proved controversial in other cities.

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.