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More body cameras for SDPD

Chief Zimmerman intends to keep tight control of recorded evidence

SDPD chief Shelley Zimmerman
SDPD chief Shelley Zimmerman

The City of San Diego wants body cameras for all uniformed police officers. On Thursday, November 12, city councilmembers sitting on the Public Safety Committee are expected to authorize spending another $1.85 million to purchase additional cameras for the coming years and extending the contract with TASER International, the company that manufacturers and sells the cameras.

If approved, the total contract amount over six years will increase to $5.8 million.

Taser's Axon Body camera goes for $399

According to a staff report, San Diego is poised to become the "largest city in the nation to implement body worn cameras."

Currently, 945 officers in San Diego wear the cameras while on duty. If the contract extension is approved, that number will rise to nearly 1100 by 2020.

Lights, camera, inaction

And while San Diego's police department has stated its commitment to having its officers record interactions with the public, it is unclear if the public will ever have the privilege of viewing the footage.

San Diego police chief Shelley Zimmerman told local journalists she would release police videos only to quell the potential for riots, according to an interview she gave to NBC 7 San Diego's Paul Krueger and as reported by Voice of San Diego in September of this year.

“It could be again for public safety. It could be, as we have seen in other cities where public safety is at risk, where people are damaging property, assaulting people, in a riot type situation. There could be exceptions, yes. And that’s where you’d have to weigh the public safety versus the due process of whoever that individual is.”

More cameras, less complaints

Data shows that members of the public have submitted fewer complaints to the department when police officers have their cameras on, according to a September 8 article in the San Diego Union-Tribune. At the same time, however, the report shows that the use of force by the same officers increased by 10 percent.

Zimmerman emphasized her intent to not release the footage, unless to quell a riot, in an interview with the paper's editorial board.

Civil-rights groups such as the Americans for Civil Liberties Union support the use of body cameras, but the group has concerns as to how to balance the public's rights to the footage.

A March 2015 report by the ACLU reads in part:

"Body cameras are not justified for use by government officials who do not have the authority to conduct searches and make arrests, such as parking enforcement officers, building inspectors, teachers, or other non-law enforcement personnel.

"Police officers have the authority, in specific circumstances, to shoot to kill, to use brutal force, and to arrest people — and all too often, abuse those powers. The strong oversight function that body cameras promise to play with regards to police officers makes that deployment of the technology a unique one.

"For other officials, the use of body cameras does not strike the right balance between the oversight function of these cameras and their potential intrusiveness."

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SDPD chief Shelley Zimmerman
SDPD chief Shelley Zimmerman

The City of San Diego wants body cameras for all uniformed police officers. On Thursday, November 12, city councilmembers sitting on the Public Safety Committee are expected to authorize spending another $1.85 million to purchase additional cameras for the coming years and extending the contract with TASER International, the company that manufacturers and sells the cameras.

If approved, the total contract amount over six years will increase to $5.8 million.

Taser's Axon Body camera goes for $399

According to a staff report, San Diego is poised to become the "largest city in the nation to implement body worn cameras."

Currently, 945 officers in San Diego wear the cameras while on duty. If the contract extension is approved, that number will rise to nearly 1100 by 2020.

Lights, camera, inaction

And while San Diego's police department has stated its commitment to having its officers record interactions with the public, it is unclear if the public will ever have the privilege of viewing the footage.

San Diego police chief Shelley Zimmerman told local journalists she would release police videos only to quell the potential for riots, according to an interview she gave to NBC 7 San Diego's Paul Krueger and as reported by Voice of San Diego in September of this year.

“It could be again for public safety. It could be, as we have seen in other cities where public safety is at risk, where people are damaging property, assaulting people, in a riot type situation. There could be exceptions, yes. And that’s where you’d have to weigh the public safety versus the due process of whoever that individual is.”

More cameras, less complaints

Data shows that members of the public have submitted fewer complaints to the department when police officers have their cameras on, according to a September 8 article in the San Diego Union-Tribune. At the same time, however, the report shows that the use of force by the same officers increased by 10 percent.

Zimmerman emphasized her intent to not release the footage, unless to quell a riot, in an interview with the paper's editorial board.

Civil-rights groups such as the Americans for Civil Liberties Union support the use of body cameras, but the group has concerns as to how to balance the public's rights to the footage.

A March 2015 report by the ACLU reads in part:

"Body cameras are not justified for use by government officials who do not have the authority to conduct searches and make arrests, such as parking enforcement officers, building inspectors, teachers, or other non-law enforcement personnel.

"Police officers have the authority, in specific circumstances, to shoot to kill, to use brutal force, and to arrest people — and all too often, abuse those powers. The strong oversight function that body cameras promise to play with regards to police officers makes that deployment of the technology a unique one.

"For other officials, the use of body cameras does not strike the right balance between the oversight function of these cameras and their potential intrusiveness."

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Comments
9

Not to worry between the ACLU and the media Shelley will be forced to release some if not all of the recordings. Then the lawsuits will come from people who really don't want their misdeeds exposed. I think that if Shelley is smart she will resist until forced by a judge to release camera footage and then when the law suits come she can point to the ACLU and Media and the judge and say "I tired to protect you".

Nov. 10, 2015

An article in the UT this morning (11/10) shows another police incident where the camera was turned off. What does it matter how many cameras are out there "protecting" us public, when they are not on to record incidents?

(I do know there are times where the camera should not be recording, due to privacy, but if they are not on for the moments where they are needed, what's the point?)

Nov. 10, 2015

All cops should have cameras, and they should be on all the time. Footage of them eating lunch, in the restroom, doing paperwork, etc. can be deleted. Footage that's sealed away from public view should be the exception, not the rule. An encounter in public is public, and the public should be able to see the video. An encounter on private property is probably different, unless there's an arrest.

We're always better off with more light on a subject than less.

Nov. 10, 2015

Wasn't this all predictable? Given the opportunity, she'd opt to use the cameras to exculpate the cops when they did things right, but hide the evidence when the opposite was true. And that's exactly what she wants to do. What's the point of having the cameras if an incident can't be examined openly? Then there's the cost of the cameras, $ millions per year that never ends. Can't they have them for a smaller cost? Well, they probably can, but would rather have a Rolls-Royce system that can make it look as if their cameras are the best available.

On a slightly different topic, Zimmerman had a news conference after last week's shootout and standoff on Bankers Hill. While that incident may have been handled about as well as could have been expected, her performance on live radio and TV wasn't reassuring. In short, she came across as a typical cop, with her comments cliche-ridden, repetitive, and ill-at-ease. But what could anyone expect? She IS a typical cop of the home-grown San Diego PD type. The only tiny difference between her and her predecessors is that she's female.

Nov. 10, 2015

SANDAG and presumably SDPD argue that ubiquitous license plate reader data should be kept for all time because you just never know when and where the bad guys will show up. So shouldn't the body cams be on and saved for all time? Jimmy Hoffa might show up in the background.

Nov. 10, 2015

Even with powerful X-ray body cams, I don't think they'll ever locate Jimmy!

Nov. 10, 2015

Tammy Fay Bakker was Jimmy Hoffa in drag.

Nov. 10, 2015

If the public can't see police conduct from the body cams, then what's the point?

Nov. 10, 2015

Indeed, what is the point? We both know the answer.

Nov. 10, 2015

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