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After editorial endorsements of police body cameras by Douglas Manchester's U-T San Diego, San Diego sheriff Bill Gore has joined the bandwagon of those looking to hook up the officer-mounted surveillance devices.
”All patrol officers should wear cameras — ASAP” proclaimed a November 25 editorial. "In San Diego, Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman is a big proponent of body cameras on officers and a believer in their potential to reduce police use of force. We wish this were true of all the nation’s law-enforcement leaders."
On January 16, the county purchasing department issued a request for information "to invite and seek input from all interested parties who may possess the capability and interest in providing a Body-Worn Camera and Recording Systems and related services for the Sheriff's Department sworn personnel….
"Information submitted in response to this request will be used by the County to consider what capabilities and equipment is commercially available to potentially meet its needs," the notice says.
"Please note that all information provided in response to this RFI will be considered public information and may be subject to release under the Public Records Act."
San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, another Manchester-backed politico, has been touting the cameras for months.
"Working with Chief Zimmerman and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, we currently have 600 patrol officers wearing body cameras, making us the largest city in the nation with this many cameras in use," he proclaimed in his January 14 state of the city speech.
"This technology protects both the officers who use it, and the civil liberties of the public they serve. It’s a bold initiative that other cities are now following. "
However bold, hasty acquisition of the video devices has raised nagging questions of privacy, reliability, and the ultimate cost to taxpayers, for which the county's information request is seeking answers due by January 30.
"What warranty do you provide with your equipment?" the solicitation asks. "Can you describe the process by which the video is encrypted and secured?"
"Please discuss repairs, exchanges, and replacement process. Discuss device and software updates and annual maintenance and support process."
Meanwhile, as the local law enforcement establishment races to get its cameras on the streets, Democratic assemblywoman Shirley Weber has introduced a bill to create a legislative task force to take testimony regarding proposed “best practices” of body-camera use.
"We have to also realize that we came into body cameras not because law enforcement couldn't do a good job enforcing the law, but because people were being abused at some point in terms of the power relationship between officers and the public," Weber told NBC affiliate KNSD earlier this month.
"We came into it in San Diego because of [police] sexual assault against women," she continued. "So we have to be very careful that we do protect the rights of the individual, the public."