Law enforcement agencies in the San Diego region and across the country are starting to acquire the cameras so that officers can record interactions with the public.
Sheriff Bill Gore wrote in his proposal that the devices, sometimes called “body-worn cameras,” can increase accountability on the part of both officers and the public.
“Many policing agencies that utilize cameras have seen improvement in the performance of officers as well as the conduct of the community members who are recorded,” Gore wrote. “Recordings made at crime and incident scenes are a tangible benefit of body-worn cameras and can provide investigators, prosecutors and juries with detailed, accurate and compelling evidence.”
He said recordings can also be used during training sessions.
Outfitting the department’s personnel with the cameras and accessories would cost about $1 million a year, not including the cost of storing the recordings electronically, according to the sheriff.
His proposal calls for staff to solicit bids from companies for demonstration systems. A vendor would be selected after testing, he said.
The San Diego Police Department has been outfitting hundreds of its officers with the cameras for nearly a year now.
The SDPD’s decision to purchase the devices stemmed from a series of embarrassing incidents in which officers either abused, or were accused of abusing, members of the public.
One of those officers was sentenced to prison for soliciting sexual favors from women he pulled over for alleged drunken driving in the Gaslamp Quarter. Another was jailed after being convicted of illegally detaining four women while on duty.
Police officials are also hoping that the presence of cameras will deter confrontations that lead to controversial shootings like those in New York and Ferguson, Missouri, that sparked nationwide protests, and reduce complaints of alleged racial profiling during vehicle stops.
“The body cameras are extremely helpful,” SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman said last week. “We’re also hearing from our Independent Citizens Review Board on Police Practices that they’re finding the body cameras are very beneficial to finding out exactly what happened (in incidents that led to a complaint).”
She said she would provide initial statistics on the cameras at a City Council committee meeting later this month.
—City News Service
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