Simitian recommends exploration of police body cameras

Cameras seen as way to boost confidence in law enforcement

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian on Dec. 12 recommended the county explore the feasibility of having sheriff's deputies wear body cameras to protect the public from officer misconduct and officers from unfounded allegations.

Simitian said that the idea of body cameras for deputies has been floating around in the county, and given recent incidents of alleged police wrongdoing across the nation, he felt it was time to direct staff to study and report on the desirability of using them.

Body worn cameras would not eliminate instances of alleged officer misconduct, but they could help the county reduce the risk, he said.

"Like everyone else around the country, I have watched these instances unfold," Simitian said. "I'm really convinced that body-worn cameras can make a difference."

Based on research by his staff, Simitian said he thinks that body-worn cameras on deputies would reduce misconduct including excessive force against the public, assist deputies in cases of unsupported charges and help increase the public's confidence in law enforcement and other public institutions.

District Attorney Jeff Rosen has been working with the county's Police Chief's Association on protocols for deploying the cameras and Sheriff Laurie Smith earlier this year proposed using funds from a 2012 tax measure to purchase the technology, he said.

Simitian cited a 16-month study conducted in the city of Rialto in southern California that he said found body cameras worn by police reduced use of force incidents by 50 percent and citizen complaints against officers by nearly 90 percent.

A number of police agencies in the county already use body-worn cameras, including the cities of Gilroy, Los Gatos and Campbell, and Mountain View plans to begin deploying them next year, he said.

Palo Alto police have tested the use of body cameras with select officers and is considering implementing them throughout the force.

The Sheriff's Department also has employed body cameras, and vehicle-mounted ones, on a limited basis and has described the experience as generally positive, according to Simitian.

Simitian's proposal to have the county staff investigate and report on the feasibility and desirability of body-worn camera will be discussed at the Board of Supervisors' next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 16, at the County Government Building in San Jose.

San Jose police recently announced a planned pilot project, to start at a future date, involving 12 officers who have volunteered to wear body cameras so the department can learn about the management and the cost of such a program.

The use of body-worn cameras and policies regarding them recently came under scrutiny in Menlo Park, when officers fatally shot a burglary suspect. Two of the three officers were wearing body cameras, but only one turned his on, and only after the suspect had been shot.

— Bay City News Service

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1 person likes this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 13, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Rialto, CA, started using these devices more than a year ago, with impressive results--

Web Link

"I think we've opened some eyes in the law enforcement world. We've shown the potential," said Tony Farrar, Rialto's police chief. "It's catching on."

Body-worn cameras are not new. Devon and Cornwall police launched a pilot scheme in 2006 and forces in Strathclyde, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, among others, have also experimented.

But Rialto's randomised controlled study has seized attention because it offers scientific – and encouraging – findings: after cameras were introduced in February 2012, public complaints against officers plunged 88% compared with the previous 12 months. Officers' use of force fell by 60%.

It is important, though, to have the cameras turned on when there is engagement between officers and the public.

Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2014 at 9:13 am

Body cameras have been shown to improve the behavior of both sides of the interaction between police and the public. Plus they eliminate the two contradictory eye witnesses of the same incident with a neutral third party view.

On the other hand, many police officers have arrested witnesses for videoing incidents and states have made it difficult to record police activities. Policing isn't always pretty but a video record is hard to contradict.

Like this comment
Posted by For a safer tomorrow
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 14, 2014 at 9:46 am

Perhaps technology can activate the camera when a gun is pulled, a club is pulled, the arms go above the head, or the heart rate goes up.

Like this comment
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 15, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Gethin is a registered user.

I fully support the use of body cameras, it will be beneficial for the police and the public.

1 person likes this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Did Redflex go into the police camera business?

[Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 15, 2014 at 7:41 pm

Palo Alto police should definitely wear body cameras. The Menlo Park police already do. It imrproves police behavior and reduces false allegations against them. Plus provides valuable evidence. It's a win-win-win.

2 people like this
Posted by Que Pasa?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2014 at 8:04 pm

what good does an on-body camera do if the police officer can turn it on or off at will--as in the recent case of the Menlo Park officers who did not turn their cameras on when pursuing and killing a burglar?

Like this comment
Posted by reality
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2014 at 11:33 am

The PAPD have had cameras recording contacts with us (the public) for years...

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

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