After a year of experimentation, body cameras are about to go mainstream in the Palo Alto Police Department.
The city is preparing to spend $95,000 this year on 90 body cameras for police officers, according to the budget that City Manager James Keene unveiled this week. If the council approves the budget, Palo Alto will join a growing field of agencies preparing to deploy the body-worn technology.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee also proposed this week a budget that includes more than $3 million for body-worn cameras for all police officers. Santa Clara County supervisors last year began investigating the use of the technology for sheriffs, a proposal that was championed by Supervisor Joe Simitian.
Palo Alto began experimenting with body cameras in the police department in early 2014, when it equipped its traffic officers and a few patrol officers with the technology. The pilot project, which the council approved in late 2013, was mostly intended to allow officers, primarily those on motorcycles, to capture footage when they're away from their vehicles.
In addition to the body cameras, all officers also have recording technology in their police vehicles. The department's vehicle fleet has been equipped with cameras since 2006, though last year the technology was upgraded so that each cruiser now has five cameras, the ability to wirelessly upload data and the capability to record things "after fact" by having all of the captured footage sit dormant on a hard drive.
Keene's budget notes that the body-worn cameras will "integrate with and enhance the current in-car camera system, which only captures approximately 40 to 60 percent of police field patrol interactions with the public.
"The use of body-worn cameras will assist in criminal prosecution, potentially reduce civil liability, and aid in the review of alleged misconduct," Keene's budget states.
The $95,000 expenditure also includes funds for digital evidence storage capacity to maintain an archive of the recordings for two years, according to the budget.