Are Police Body Cameras the Way to Go to Protect Police and Citizens?

Police Body Camera Stock

In the wake of Ferguson, we have had a nationwide discussion on issues focusing on police accountability and oversight. One idea that has emerged has been requiring police to wear police body cameras – cameras that clip on to an officer’s uniform and record audio and video of the officer’s interactions with the public.

President Obama in early December proposed a new Body Worn Camera Partnership Program that “would provide a 50 percent match to states and localities that purchase body worn cameras and requisite storage. An investment of $15 million in the first year could support up to 10,000 body worn cameras and storage. Overall, the $75 million investment over three years could help purchase 50,000 body worn cameras and storage.”

Michael Brown’s parents released a statement, encouraging the public to join their campaign “to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.”

On December 4, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “There is some scientific studies — there are some scientific studies that indicate — that are preliminary, that do indicate that body cameras do have an impact; that there are a number of studies that indicate that — at least in one study that was conducted in Rialto, California, it found that officers who did not wear body cameras were twice as likely to use force as those who were, and that there were initial results from another study in Mesa, Arizona, that suggest that 65 percent fewer complaints were filed against officers who wore body cameras.”

He added, “I think it’s also important to point out that these kinds of body-worn cameras can also perform an important function of enhancing the safety of law enforcement officers themselves. If the individuals that are having a confrontation with the officer know that they, too, are being filmed, that also might affect the kind of interaction that this individual has with the police officer. So these studies are preliminary, so I don’t think that a final judgment has been passed on this, but I do think that there is at least some evidence to indicate that body cameras could make some difference.”

However, there is pushback on this idea. In San Jose, a department long at the forefront of police oversight efforts, the San Jose Mercury News reported last week, “San Jose’s efforts to equip its officers have stalled for years, most recently waiting for the city and its police union to agree on a policy covering the use of cameras.”

The article noted, “But in San Jose, the Bay Area’s largest city and self-proclaimed capital of Silicon Valley, the cameras have yet to be tested, more than two years after a pilot program appeared poised to begin. The program was left in limbo after Chief Chris Moore retired in 2013 and more recently has been delayed as the police union and the department work out how footage taken by the cameras can be used.”

“I’m very frustrated. This department should have cameras,” said Independent Police Auditor LaDoris Cordell, a retired judge who has pushed for the cameras for nearly four years. “This delay is unnecessary. We need to move forward.”

Meanwhile, the Voice of San Diego reported on Monday that, while San Diego police officers are wearing new body cameras, the public isn’t allowed to see the videos. The online news site reported, “The police department denied our formal records request for the protest footage.”

They write, “(San Diego Police Chief Shelley) Zimmerman said she would consider making police body camera videos public in certain circumstances, such as the shooting in Ferguson that left Michael Brown dead at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson. But it’s becoming clear that would only happen in the most extreme situations. So far Zimmerman has denied requests to make camera footage available when officers were involved in shootings and these protests.”

They add, “The reason is that SDPD doesn’t view body cameras primarily as a tool for transparency, like it was billed when city leaders began discussing the cameras in earnest earlier this year. Instead, it’s a way for the department to gather more evidence in criminal cases. This is the legal reason the department has said it’s allowed to keep all footage out of public view.”

In October of 2013, the ACLU released their recommendation on police body cameras. While they support the technology overall, there are two tricky but critical questions they raise:

  • Will police officers have the discretion to control what the cameras record? If officers can “edit on the fly,” that will destroy this technology’s value as a police accountability tool. Should officers’ cameras be on at all times during their shift, or would it be too oppressive for officers to have every chat between partners in a patrol car recorded, and to worry that recordings will be misused by police supervisors against whistleblowers or union activists? But if they are under officer control, how do we ensure that an officer won’t manipulate the recordings to permit abuse?
  • Are good policies put in place to ensure that these cameras do not invade the privacy of particular individuals, or become yet another vector for mass surveillance? How can we ensure that citizens are made aware that they are being recorded; that video taken inside a person’s home (during a domestic violence call or burglary investigation, for example) or in other sensitive situations does not embarrass someone and cause others to hesitate to call for help? How can we ensure that video of embarrassing or titillating incidents does not get circulated within a police force for laughs, or end up on the internet? How can we ensure that the public has faith that video of their interactions with the police will be strictly handled?

In September of 2014, following the initial Ferguson, Missouri, incident, ACLU Communications and Public Policy Director Ed Yohnka cautioned, “It would be unwise to deploy this new technology without instituting some basic privacy protections for the man on the street. If we don’t, police body cameras may devolve into yet another tool for routine surveillance of the public, not oversight of the police.”

He argued, “The best approach is to require officers to record every interaction with a civilian. The only exception to this policy should be for First Amendment activity (e.g., a protest, demonstration or rally), which should not be captured and cataloged by police. This activity should not be recorded — absent some reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior.”

He added, “This standard means capturing a lot of data, from stop-and-frisk searches to tourists seeking directions. Concern about collecting this many recordings can be mitigated by regulating how this data is retained and distributed.”

“Recordings should be retained no more than 90 days, unless the encounter has been flagged — an instance in which force is used, a detention or arrest results, a formal or informal complaint is filed or because a supervisor holds it for internal training purposes,” he wrote.

“Individuals recorded by police officers should have access to recordings pertaining to their incident. Flagged recordings should be released to the public on request. Any recording not flagged should not be disclosed. Finally, no recordings should be disclosed to other government agencies unless a supervisor determines they are relevant to an ongoing investigation or contain evidence of criminal activity,” Mr. Yohnka added.

However, from reading the reports from San Diego and San Jose, it seems that right now there will be a hodge-podge of local authority protocols over recording, and that will lead to both uneven application of practices and confusion by the citizens as to their rights.

Based on that, either at the state or federal level, there should be guiding legislation that at the very least lays out baseline conditions for use, even if it is to leave local authorities to have the discretion for the rollout of their program.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

39 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    Something the article overlooked, cameras will stop civilians from pressing false claims against police so it’s a great tool for law enforcement from that aspect.  I don’t know if I would want a camera and audio recording everything I said and did all day so I can understand the unions and the officers having second thoughts about that.  Hopefully something can be worked out.

    1. David Greenwald

      I thought I made that point – or I intended to. Cameras are a win-win for police and citizens. For police they can clear up false claims or mistaken ones. For citizens, they reduce the likelihood of police misconduct and increase the likelihood that misconduct can be addressed. I think we can deal with the privacy concerns.

      BTW, it’s not just false claims. I’ll give you an example, about four years ago I got a ticket dropping the kids off at school for running a stop sign. I had thought I had stopped at the stop sign. Mentioned it to someone and they looked at the video from the car camera (a little different but the same concept), and sure enough, I had rolled right through the stop sign. I wasn’t making a false claim, I honestly had thought I had stopped, but I hadn’t and it was clear on the camera. Saved the police a challenge in court.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        DG: I wasn’t making a false claim. I honestly had thought I had stopped, but I hadn’t, and it was clear on the camera.

        Actually, based on what you explained was seen on video, you absolutely made a false claim, because you failed to stop. What you can say is that you did not intentionally make a false claim.

  2. Tia Will

    In view of the recent passage in Illinois of a bill making it possible to charge a civilian with a felony for video taping police in situations in which as the law states there is a “reasonable expectation of privacy” ( not otherwise defined) the issue of police transparency seems to have two sides.

    There is the question of optimal use of police videotapes, who gets to edit, who gets to decide when to delete, who controls public availability of the tapes, when and under what circumstances tapes would be released to those taped while being detained/arrested or their legal representatives ?

    And then, there is the question of why citizens should not be able to videotape any police interaction occurring in a publicly accessible space. The police are public servants. Their activities are payed for by tax dollars. How would it be justifiable to not have their activities open to public review ? Should we really be advocating for the most direct form of governmental control over our individual lives ( community policing) to be conducted behind a veil of secrecy or should the citizens have the ability to monitor the use of force in their own communities ? When, if ever, should taping be allowed in a “private venue” ?

    All valid questions.

    it seems that right now there will be a hodge-podge of local authority over recording and that will lead to both uneven application of practices and confusion by the citizens as to their rights.”

    I agree with this statement, and also see a potential opportunity to use this “hodge-podge” as a series of “mini pilot” programs to determine which applications work well in reducing both actual and spurious claims of use of excessive force and then spreading effective best practices.

    1. South of Davis

      Tia wrote:

      > In view of the recent passage in Illinois of a bill making it possible to charge

      > a civilian with a felony for video taping police in situations in which as the law

      > states there is a “reasonable expectation of privacy” 

      Do you think we need video of cops using the donut store bathroom?

      I have a problem with ANY employer that has mandatory video AND audio of an employee for all of his work hours (no problem with just video) since what people say can easily be misunderstood (or taken out of context).

      I’ve done “ride a longs” with both cops and paramedics and because they see a lot of rough stuff so they tend try and make things lighter with a lot of “Gallows humor” that does not need to be played on the evening news.

      I think Frankly has mentioned that he has a video system at his house and I know more an more people are getting them as they get cheaper. Since anyone (even cops) that wants video 24/7 can buy their own home, car and body camera (all for under $100 each) let’s just let the people that want 24/7 video pay for their own.

      1. Tia Will

        SOD

        I will preface my comment by stating clearly that I have not done any ride alongs and so do not share this exact experience. However, I have done “home visitations” with social service workers and been the doc in the ER when some of these “rough situations” got as far as needing medical attention and so have the following observations.

        1. Ride alongs, like home visitations are narrated by the police, paramedics, and social service workers who quite naturally comment on the events from their perspective.

        2. “so they tend try and make things lighter with a lot of “Gallows humor” that does not need to be played on the evening news.”

        I would agree with this as long as the “Gallows humor” is generic. If it involves derogatory comments based on race, gender, sexual preference, religion or place of birth, then I think the community deserves the insight into how they are viewed by their sworn protectors.

        .3 This seems a reasonable suggestion until you realize that Frankly, if he were in Illinois could be charged with a felony for recording a police officer on his private property and a private citizen can be charged with a felony for use their own ( personally paid for ) cell phone to record a police interaction.

        1. South of Davis

          Tia wrote:

          > This seems a reasonable suggestion until you realize that Frankly,

          > if he were in Illinois could be charged with a felony for recording a

          > police officer on his private property 

          I’m not an attorney, but when I read the actual Illinois law I’m pretty sure Frankly or anyone else in Illinois can “video” police on his property but can’t record “audio” of the cop JUST LIKE IN CALIFORNIA

          http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/california-recording-law

        2. Frankly

          I would agree with this as long as the “Gallows humor” is generic. If it involves derogatory comments based on race, gender, sexual preference, religion or place of birth, then I think the community deserves the insight into how they are viewed by their sworn protectors.

          This is where the pursuit of hypersensitive perfection is the enemy of the good.  You want to “police” the speech of police?  And I assume you would continue this into the private lives of police as you have made this demand previously.  What’s next… police their thoughts too?

          No thanks.  For me I will just stick with behavior as the measurable, actionable criteria.  I frankly (because I am), I would suggest that you value the ability for police… doing what is probably one of the most stressful jobs aside from being in the infantry… to blow off a little steam with rough humor.

      2. Frankly

        I have had a few different motion-sensing video systems at home and at work.  I started after someone broke the window of my truck to pull the dashboard apart to try and get my stereo out, only to fail because I had bolted it to a custom bracket I had installed.

        After that my neighbors without camera system have had their cars broken into, but not me.

        They say crooks are not stupid, they are lazy.   They see a camera system and realize it will be more work and greater risk to prevent detection, and so they go elsewhere.

        At home I captured video of the car that ran into my son’s car parked on the street.  Found the owner a few blocks away.  It was one of my son’s school mates… a girl… who said “I was going to come over to talk about it.” after her mother called her down to say “how come you told me that the dents in your car happened in a parking lot?”  BUSTED!

        I also captured video of the college student letting his dog poo in my front yard and then leave it.   For some reason his dog liked doing his business in my grass and he didn’t think he needed to pick it up.  Out walking my dog and I see him and say “my security cameras continue to catch your dog using my lawn as his bathroom.  No problem, except that you leave it there.  Please clean up after your dog from now on.”  He paused for a minute as if he would deny it and then said “Ok.  Sorry” and for some reason I don’t get any more video of him and his dog.

        At work the neighbor had a bike stolen and I found a video of the perp crossing our driveway and then hopping my neighbor’s gate… and then the gate opens and off goes the perp on the bike.  Sent it to my neighbor who then sent it to the police.

        I think we need security cameras everywhere except inside our private spaces and bathrooms, etc.  If you are worried about privacy, then stop doing things that cause you to worry.

        1. David Greenwald

          “I think we need security cameras everywhere except inside our private spaces and bathrooms, etc. If you are worried about privacy, then stop doing things that cause you to worry.”

          I was okay with your post until this comment – it ignores misunderstandings and mistakes.

        2. Frankly

          It is just evidence… and it will tend to be better evidence than will testimony.  You yourself keep bringing up the lack of reliability of testimony.  Are you stuck trying to have your cake and eat it too here?  For example, are you trying to protect the ability of some suspect to get off because of a “mistake” that might otherwise, with video, become a stronger justification for prosecution?

          Personally, I just want the truth.  And video will generally always help us get to a better and stronger truth.  But video will need to be interpreted and there will be cases were the greater context is missing.  But that risk will exist for both law enforcement and suspects.  And that risk already exists.

        3. Davis Progressive

          it’s how the evidence is used.  i think a lot of people think that you get a clear picture of what happens on surveillance video, a lot of times, it’s suggestive not conclusive and often you just see a little bit of the action.

        4. Tia Will

          Frankly

          I assume you would continue this into the private lives of police as you have made this demand previously.”  

          Please reference any comment that I have made the you interpreted as a demand that I would “continue this into the private lives of police”.

  3. PhilColeman

    Absolutely thrilled to see this discussion getting more public traction. Just a couple of comments specific to the thrust of this column.

    San Jose opposition. The SJPD has a very powerful police union. Notwithstanding the image of the “Silicon Valley cutting edge” portrayal, SJPD has had some contentious internal issues in it relations with the city itself. In other words, SJPD’s resistance to this innovation is not representative of the law enforcement community in CA. And SJPD has been decimated in its authorized strength and their morale is in the tank. Bad climate for any innovation of any kind.

    There really needs to be a poll of California law enforcement officers to confirm my firm conviction line officers want this device. California Police Chiefs, League of CA Cities. Somebody, please!

    I’ll also say again, the CA law enforcement should throw ACLU completely off its game by publicly supporting the ACLU model policy. It helps law enforcement far more than the ACLU constituency.

    Policy and process issues. This is a smoke-screen. None of the “concerns” are deal-busters, they are simply delaying tactics. Concerns about privacy of citizens in only a relevant issue when the citizen is in a private setting (like a home). We can devise a review process to monitor that. Think a moment; most current controversial police/citizens contacts are very public settings. The citizen’s right to privacy is lost once he/she steps outside the door.

    1. David Greenwald

      Agree with about everything but slightly differ on this: ” It helps law enforcement far more than the ACLU constituency.”

      In the sense that I think the majority of the time, police operate appropriately, you are correct. But this helps ACLU’s core issue because it will reduce the number of transgressions (few as they may be) and increases the likelihood that we will see action when transgressions occur.

      Now of course we know in the Garner case the incident was videoed, so there are limits on how effective it might be and reasonable people will disagree. But at least we know what happened there unlike Ferguson.

      1. PhilColeman

        We do not disagree on anything here. Only a fool, or a person with no counter-argument, would say body cams are the only solution. In fact, I’ve yet to find anybody who has even said that.

        Will body cams discourage misbehavior from rogue cops? Of course, it will. Will there be isolated attempts to subvert or sabotage body cam recordings? Yes, again.

        But, on this latter point, this is where the most powerful police behavior force enters: Peer pressure. The rogue cop who has “wardrobe malfunctions” repeatedly in suspicious circumstances does not escape the notice of supervisors and peers who do the right thing everyday. The rogue cop will quickly pick up a disparaging nick-name (e.g., “Camera shy”) and be address as such in every police social setting. The rogue cop cannot cope with such ostracism in the close-knit culture of line officers. He’ll either change the behavior or go somewhere else.

        Anybody not believe any of this? Fine. Pose this scenario to any number of cops you know, and respect for their professionalism. Report back with your findings.

         

    2. Tia Will

      Phil

      I agree with much of your post and have a question:

      The citizen’s right to privacy is lost once he/she steps outside the door.”

      This is true. And do you believe as I do that it should apply equally to the police ?

      Under the Illinois law it would seem that the police are allowed discretion as to when there is a “reasonable expectation of privacy” but the civilians are not allowed such discretion. I see this as inherently wrong. I am wondering about your perspective.

       

       

      1. South of Davis

        Tia wrote:

        > but the civilians are not allowed such discretion

        You are wrong about this (fly to Illinois and film some naked “civilian” kids in an Illinois bathroom and post it to the internet if you don’t believe me)…

      2. PhilColeman

        That’s an easy one. Except for access to personnel records, California law enforcement have virtually no “expectations of privacy” that exceed that found with other citizens in a job setting.

        Disregard the Illinois statute, it has no force here anyway.  The Illinois law is an anomy in my view. It will probably be stricken as being Unconstitutional. No such statute porposal would ever pass in California.

        With body cams–and issues arising out of what privacy concerns should be publicly revealed–we have a process already in place, and has worked effectively for decades. Amend the “Pitchess Motion” case law and statute and add disputed body cam tapes subject to judicial review.

  4. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    FRANK LEE: “I think we need security cameras everywhere except inside our private spaces and bathrooms, etc.  If you are worried about privacy, then stop doing things that cause you to worry.”

    One thing to keep in mind is that, for public agencies at least, working cameras cost money, and sometimes it is so much that they cannot operate the ones they have in place. I learned this some years back when two cars collided at the intersection of Pole Line Road and 5th Street, flipping one car over. Both drivers–one of whom was Supervisor Jim Provenza–claimed they had a green light and the other person ran a red light. There are red light cameras in place at that intersection. However, they were turned off, due to cost. If they had been working, we would have known for certain which driver was at fault.

    See: http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/fifthpole-line-crash-still-under-investigation/

    So if the idea is to have every street and sidewalk and park and greenbelt and public parking lot monitored with security cameras, there is a public cost. The homeowners and businesses which install cameras believe the cost is much greater than the benefit. But not all of them are even working–the cameras are an effective threat in some cases–and they set the focus just so their property is protected, not all the public space around them.

    Given the costs involved, some judgment must be made as to where public cameras would do the most good. For example, I would think in every multi-story parking garage, they should be put in place. Many people, I am told, feel unsafe in those structures. I think cameras would deter property and personal crimes. However, having cameras monitoring sidewalks where there is almost no crime is probably not worth the price.

    Monetary costs aside, there is a price to be paid in loss of privacy. It is a subjective cost, and no two individuals will feel it the same. But even those who think the crime deterrence benefit is always worth it would concede that there are times when you are in public and you don’t care to have someone watching you.

     

  5. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    Frankly: “If you are worried about privacy, then stop doing things that cause you to worry.”

    Frankly, I have a question for you: Would you favor speed enforcement cameras on all streets, highways and freeways, where, if the cameras observed a vehicle exceeding the speed limit, the driver would automatically be issued a speeding ticket*? They have these in some parts of Canada.

    After all, if you are worried about getting caught violating the vehicle code, then stop doing things that violate the vehicle code, right?

    *Assuming the camera gets a decent picture of the driver, we likely have the ability to figure out who was driving, using face recognition software, in cases where the owner is not the operator of the speeding car.

    1. Frankly

      Rich – You take the camera idea one step further to automatic issuing of citations.   I think in some cases it is justified.   For example, running a red light at a busy intersection… because it is potentially fatal.  And speeding in some areas… like next to a school.

      We can use judgement where the potential for material harm is greatest, and accept some loss in personal freedom.

      Just consider what we go through for airline travel these days.  Talk about a camera invading our personal space!

      I’m not in favor of camera-citation except where it is justified.  Otherwise it needs to be camera/human – citation… with the video/images just adding great value to the evidence that humans vet and decide.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        We can use judgment where the potential for material harm is greatest, and accept some loss in personal freedom.

        I agree with you here. I think this is a more nuanced answer than what you implied when you wrote, “If you are worried about privacy, then stop doing things that cause you to worry.” 

        I think we need to use judgment in all cases, and decide where the benefits of public security cameras outweighs the cost, including the loss of some privacy, just as in the cases of speed enforcement cameras.

        When it comes to private homeowners or businesses choosing to employ a security camera or not, the decision (of course) should be left up entirely to the private party, as long as the camera is not used as a cover for some sort of peeping tom shenanigans.

        1. Frankly

          Agreed.

          And next, we will have drones to deal with.  Just thinking of that new security camera which is a drone connected to a charging station and when the camera senses motion it flies around to get a better view of the event.

          And then kids will start making motion just to make the drone fly around… and we will need some new drone anti-harassment laws.

          Next up, SCOTUS will take cases to determine if drones have rights and freedoms… like the right to fly, and the freedom to not be shot down by an angry neighbor.

          Thankfully we are probably decades, if not centuries, away from laws to protect drones from hate speech.

           

        2. South of Davis

          Rich wrote:

          > As long as the camera is not used as a cover for some sort of peeping tom shenanigans.

          I think we all agree Mike Lyon should not get a video camera again:

          ” By the time Sacramento sheriff’s deputies showed up at Michael P. Lyon’s front door Wednesday morning, he had known for 18 months that he was under investigation for allegedly making secret recordings of friends and houseguests.”

          http://sacratomatovillepost.com/2010/11/11/prominent-millionaire-michael-lyon-arrested-for-taping-house-guest/http://www.bizjournals.com/sacramento/news/2014/10/01/disgraced-real-estate-exec-michael-lyon-apparently.html

          And if anyone was wondering how meth will make you look in your 50’s you can see what Mike looks like now:

          http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article2620052.html

        3. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          I think we all agree Mike Lyon should not get a video camera again.

          Michael Lyon grew up in Davis and graduated from Davis High. His father, Bill Lyon, started Lyon Real Estate and was a developer in Davis. I’m not sure how many homes Bill built, but I know he helped develop El Macero Country Club and I think his company also constructed houses in South Davis. Bill was originally from Dixon, where he went to high school with Freland Mace. Freland was a son of Charles Bruce Mace*, for whom Mace Ranch, Mace Boulevard and El Macero are named. … As to Michael Lyon, it’s very sad. He had a lot going for him, but he made some terrible choices.

          *See: http://www.davisenterprise.com/forum/opinion-columns/how-bruce-mace-shaped-the-growth-of-davis/

        4. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          And next, we will have drones to deal with.  Just thinking of that new security camera which is a drone connected to a charging station and when the camera senses motion it flies around to get a better view of the event.

          I think using drones could be a positive for public safety and law enforcement. I can imagine them serving a purpose, for example, in following a fleeing criminal far more safely than an officer in a high speed chase. They could also be of help in rural parts of Yolo County, for example, where we lack deputies on patrol. They also might be able to help fire crews getting to a fire faster.

          However, I think they would do more harm than good in some cases. I wouldn’t want them flying low enough where I could hear them buzzing overhead. (I hate this about helicopters, now, but they are rarely over my house.) If drones are essentially just another quiet bird in the sky, no problem. But I hope we never accept them as disturbers of peace and quiet.

    2. Anon

      LOL  They have speed trap cameras all over the state of MD.  If you speed, the camera will catch you, and you will get a nice little ticket in the mail with a whopping price tag!

  6. Anon

    In this day and age of high-technology, so many people have cameras on their phones.  IMO there is no expectation of privacy on public streets and sidewalks.  People with iPhones snap pictures of everything with impunity, including up girls’ skirts, without repercussions.  See: http://quemas.mamaslatinas.com/in_the_news/130632/taking_upskirt_pictures_legal in which the judge in the case stated:

    “This Court finds that no individual clothed and positioned in such a manner in a public area in broad daylight in the presence of countless other individuals could have a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

    That said, I am all for body cameras on police, with the following caveats:

    1. Inside the patrol car where there is an expectation of privacy, it is not necessary to nor should the camera be turned on.

    2. Only when there will be interaction with the public should the cameras be turned on, every time.

    3. There should be a presumption that the police did something wrong (burden is on the police to prove they did the right thing) if camera footage of the incident conveniently “goes missing”.

    4. The footage should not be shown to the public if it took place anywhere there is an expectation of privacy, such as within a person’s home.  If the footage was taken in a public place, then it is fair game for a public records request.

    1. Davis Progressive

      it will be interesting to see how a higher court rules on the upskirt – i think there is a reasonable expectation that someone will not attempt to look inside and under clothing whether the opening is at the bottom or the top.

      i think your safeguards are relatively good.  the concern is that the police would turn off video at key times if it is discretionary, but putting the presumption on them might rectify it, although you certainly can’t undo burden of proof and it would be difficult to be exculpatory for a defendant even with some presumptions, so i’m not sure three is workable.

    2. PhilColeman

      Point Two is critical, and addresses many of the tangential issues already posed. Personal communications among employees is not relevant to the social and legal needs that prompted this entire issue. Employees will always complaint about the work environment, we’ll call it Divine Right.

      Every time there is a police/citizen interaction, the camera is turned on.

      The only exception that immediately comes to mind is when there is an exchange between an officer and a confidential informant. Otherwise, even if a citizen approaches and asks where Elm Street is, turn on the camera.

  7. Barack Palin

    3. There should be a presumption that the police did something wrong (burden is on the police to prove they did the right thing) if camera footage of the incident conveniently “goes missing”.

    Can’t agree with that one.  What if an officer just forgot to turn on his camera?   Under your guide lines they’d be turning the cameras off and on all day, it would be possible that they honestly forgot to turn it on.  What happened to being innocent until proven guilty?

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        Since the cameras being on provides (IMO) more protection for the police–in terms of having evidence that they acted reasonably and professionally, which most cops do all the time–I think the matter of an officer failing to turn on* his camera should be a matter for his superiors, probably the chief of police, to decide what is an appropriate response. (If, for example, an officer was forced to act very fast in an emergency, he should not be penalized for not stopping to turn on his camera. Each situation needs to be treated differently, based on the circumstances.)

        What is a far more serious question–one which should be decided by the law, not by the chief–is what to do if there is evidence that a camera was on and then after a complaint was filed the video was erased or somehow messed with. That would be a real problem.

        *I would think that the on/off could be automated, such that the officer does not have to do anything. It would simply turn on or off by itself, as a cop is out of his car or not, or interacting with people or not.

  8. Miwok

    The basic cost for a camera (We are going to give everyone one) now is “We are gonna donate 50% of the cost of one”, then the cost of a person to collect that data, video experts in every small hamlet, like Davis, and on and on.

    Equipment is cheap compared to what it used to be, but with cops running their own camera, and the department is going to give that job to someone already overworked and unqualified, it is going to be a fiasco. No industry standards, no common cameras, even dash cams don’t get the sides and rear of the cop car..

    You know every cop’s kid is going to have to show their parent how to run this, and small departments are going to be underserved by this experiment, as San Jose and San Diego are already showing.

    Quit talking about how to use it when they ain’t got it yet. Talk about how much it adds to the budget you are trying to cut back.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for