Fort Pierce police body cameras under new scrutiny

Fort Pierce police body cameras under new scrutiny

There are new details in the arrest of two Fort Pierce police officers who face charges after a patient was beaten at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center.

Court records reveal efforts to cover up what happened inside a hospital room that included turning off their body cameras.

Now, a Fort Pierce city leader is calling for stricter rules.

On Feb. 20, surveillance video inside the hospital recorded the moments officer Albert Eckrode slapped and punched a patient, who investigators say was intoxicated and using racial slurs toward a black female officer Monica Frederic.

Court records reveal every officer in the room turned off their body cameras.

“So, had it not been for the recording in Lawnwood, we wouldn’t know to this day what happened,” said Fort Pierce Commissioner Reggie Sessions.

Investigators said officer Eckrode was provoking the patient to keep using the n-word. And before throwing punches, records show Eckrode checked that each officer had their camera off.

Frederic told investigators she “should have known something was going to happen when Officer Eckrode asked if their cameras were activated.”

Frederic is charged for lying in her report about what happened and also showing her summary of events to Officer Eckrode before submitting it.

Investigators said she lied that Eckrode was spit on and kicked by the patient, provoking the beating. They also said that she tried to get another officer to tell the same story.

She also is accused of making a second report, saying that didn’t actually happen.

Eckrode is also accused of telling the same lie in his report.

“When you have those type of officers who just saying, 'to hell with the rules and the regulations, I’m going to cover it up,' like what happened here, that needs to be handled," said Sessions.

Sessions worries too often body cameras aren’t catching criminal activity.

Records show Fort Pierce investigated nearly a dozen body camera-related violations from 2016 to 2018 -- with eight sustained findings.

“We spent a lot of money for those body cameras. Why aren’t they being used? There are no excuses for why they shouldn’t be used,” said Sessions.

He now wants more oversight, proposing a city ordinance that would require officers to upload body camera footage after every shift or every citizen encounter.

He wants someone outside the police department to determine if missing footage is an accident or malicious.

“We’ve got to put something in place with some teeth to make sure that these officers have these body cameras on,” said Sessions.

WPTV has reached out to the police department for comment. We’re waiting for a response.

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