Cops to wear cameras in Palo Alto

City's experiment would equip traffic officers with recording equipment

Drivers who get pulled over by motorcycle cops in Palo Alto rarely feel like smiling.

The Police Department's proposal to put cameras on police officers is unlikely to change that, though it may offer alleged violators a little reassurance about officer accountability.

Under the proposal that the City Council is expected to approve on Monday night, nine officers will be equipped with "body-worn audio/visual systems" as part of the Police Department's proposal to upgrade its video technology. The bulk of the $305,000 contract would go toward upgrading the video systems in police cruisers, a local fixture since 2006. The report from the Police Department states that such technology "has become instrumental in law enforcement training, evidence collection, and for officer safety and accountability."

The current seven-year-old system, the report states, is at the end of its technical life-cycle. The upgraded camera systems would provide "greater resolution and visibility, increased camera placement, and significantly improved audio capture that reduces background noise." If the proposal is approved, cameras would be upgraded in the entire fleet of 28 vehicles.

The body-worn cameras, meanwhile, are a new experiment. They would worn by patrol officers and members of the motorcycle-riding "traffic-safety team," allowing officers to capture video evidence when they are away from their vehicles.

In addition to the police equipment, staff is considering using audio-visual systems on Fire Department vehicles to "capture video during transport and incidents (and) to increase the safety and accountability of line personnel," according to the report. The contract that the council will be voting on includes funds to equip the battalion-chief van with a camera to "capture activities during major incidents."


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:25 am

This is a pleasant surprise. For the most part, there have not been a large number of complaints about the Palo Alto Police, in terms of how they deal with the public—but then, the responsibility for reporting what might be unacceptable behavior was the responsibility of the person who had some sort of interaction with the Police. Having actual recordings of the individual interactions opens the door to a new level of police accountability.

However, we now know that the Federal government, through the NSA, the IRS, and now, our credit cards and medical records, has put the American people, and much of the world, under the microscope of one branch, or another, of the Federal government. The introduction of automatic license plate readers allows local police to accumulate data on our movements, with little accountability (at the moment) as to the retention, and use, of this data. Now, these wearable cameras sets the stage for stripping another layer of privacy, for people who have interactions with the police, as well as possibly the public at large.

When the automatic license plate readers were announced here in Santa Clara county, the police indicated that they would eventually produce some sort of policy statement about their use, and presumably the retention of the data, as well as who would have access to this data. None of the local police departments have produced these policy statements, much less drafts of their thinking.

The kinds of issues that need consideration in such a policy:

• Retention of the data (video streams)
• Police use of data.
• Access to the data.
o Public access.
o Commercial access.
• Protection of the data (by the police).

One of the problems that having all of this recorded video data sets for us is what to do with this data. Presumably any one making a complaint about the police would want the video of that incident reviewed. But what about all of the information about all of the public interactions that is not reviewed? Software could be developed that would analyze the video data for public interactions, providing a catalog of time indexes that would allow convenient review of these videos—rather than having to sit through untold hours of “footage” that is not relevant to any meaningful review of an officers behavior.
Google has prototype this sort of software in the past. As more police departments have their officers wearing cameras, an opportunity would exist for a consortium of Cities to fund the development of the software that would be needed to allow this sort of review.

It’s a shame that the police have not provided us with a technology plan (at least with a five year horizon) that gives us some insight into their thinking about how they plan to use this equipment, and emerging software.

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Posted by Raymond
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:37 am

Never had a problem with PAPD. They run a quality organisation. I support them wholeheartedly.

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Posted by Pamela
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:02 pm

PAPD is the WORST. I don't trust them even with cameras.

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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm

In my experiences with the Palo Alto Police Department they have been professional and top notch for all my adult life. When I was a teen ager in the 70's was when I noticed big problems with harassment, rudeness and even abuse, but there was also a very anti-Police attitude prevalent in the society at the time too. I could name names I recall and experiences, but I have seen no evidence of anything bad for me or others since that time - and quite the opposite.

That is merely anecdotal I realize, and my sample size is small though. I think in any case this is a good pro-active move in case problems start up again and I think this is evidence of the kind of value added the rest of the city ought to start thinking about how to do in whatever department.

As a new book I am reading is entitled, "Average Is Over" and increasingly people should be monitored in their jobs and people who are unsuited or do not do or want to do a great job do not need to keep them. I just wish that included the people at the top more often! Way too often do we read about unthinkable behavior with Police Officers in other cities ... I hope this prevents that kind of thing here.

Question - the "officer" who was caught in a Palo Alto motel with a prostitute was not a Palo Alto officer ... is that correct? ;-)

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Posted by Allen Edwards
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:22 pm

PAPD rocks.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2013 at 1:58 pm

I would like to know more about how officer accountability works with these cameras. It seems officer personnel issues are off limits to the general public. So even if a complaint of officer misconduct is filed, the outcome of any investigation is not made public or shared with the person who made the complaint.

PAPD needs to work on its image.

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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm

"An armed society is a polite society." (Heinlein?) Maybe a recorded society will be a polite society. I doubt it.

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Posted by copss
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Nov 14, 2013 at 4:08 pm

cops stay away from me! not gonna stop for cops anymore.why, because they are targeting because of race. you are a cop criminal following me, so i will not stop for you. [Portion removed.]

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Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Nov 14, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Will the Palo Alto city council also be wearing "body-worn audio/visual systems"?

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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 14, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Great idea. And kudos to the wonderful Stanford and PAPD.

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Posted by Bruce L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 9:40 pm

To answer the inquiry from CrescentParkAnon: "the "officer" who was caught in a Palo Alto motel with a prostitute was not a Palo Alto officer ... is that correct? ;-)"

A Menlo Park officer was caught in a Sunnyvale Motel with a prostitute back in January of this year if that's the incident you are referencing. Nothing similar reported in a Palo Alto motel that I can recall….

In response to the statement by Resident: "It seems officer personnel issues are off limits to the general public. So even if a complaint of officer misconduct is filed, the outcome of any investigation is not made public or shared with the person who made the complaint."

Yes, there are CA statutes applicable to the rights of Public Safety Officers. They are contained in Government Codes Sections 3300-3312 and various Penal Code Sections. Some of these statutes provide necessary confidentiality to Police Officers personnel records/files.

However the outcome is shared with the complainant per Penal Code section 832.7(e)(1) which reads: The department or agency shall provide written notification to the complaining party of the disposition of the complaint within 30 days of the disposition.

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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Thanks Bruce L. ... I think I was conflating that story with one about a man robbing a prostitute in a Palo Alto Motel, the Glass Slipper. That Menlo Park police "unfiring" story still just bugs me.

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Posted by PA Native
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 15, 2013 at 12:05 am

This is great news. It takes a certain person to be a police officer and I support all of them. There are many entitled Palo Altans who bash the PAPD, yet would be grateful to see them in their time of need. Thank you, PAPD, and all law enforcement officers for risking your lives for us.

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Posted by coooper
a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I hope the PA cops will not be able to choose to turn off the camera when they don't want something recorded, like in some other jurisdictions.

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Posted by coooper
a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Wayne Martin certainly paints a chilling scenario in which an officer, pulling over a responsible adult driver on a dark road one night, might instantly pull up video history, including that time when said driver, as a teenager, sassed a cop. Bad news.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Meadow Park

on Jun 5, 2017 at 12:00 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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