Seeking to boost transparency in police operations, Palo Alto has approved the purchase of 50 body-worn cameras for its Police Department.
The City Council voted on May 7 to approve an expenditure of $110,000 for the 50 cameras, which are manufactured by the company WatchGuard Video, as well as for video storage, warranties and upgrades to the department's video library.
The council's decision to buy the cameras came at the heels of a six-month experiment that the department conducted with the WatchGuard cameras. The city already uses a WatchGuard video system on its patrol vehicles, which capture video footage from five different in-car cameras.
The addition of the body-worn cameras means that the department will now be able to review all police interactions using six cameras -- the five in the vehicle and the one worn by the officers -- on the same WatchGuard platform.
According to a report from the Police Department, the city bought 10 body-worn cameras from WatchGuard last year for a pilot project, which netted generally positive results. In many cases, the report states, the video "has provided clear documentation of what occurred during incidents in the field."
"The video evidence has exonerated officers of false accusations, enhanced training and, in rare instances, provided the basis for corrective action," the report states. "The Department believes body-worn cameras will further enhance police transparency and improve accountability and interactions within the community."
The report noted that the only issue that the department experienced during the pilot program had to do with battery life. To get around this issue, the department plans to charge body-worn cameras in kiosks that will allow officers to swap the equipment during their shifts.
The council approved the purchase of the body-worn cameras on its "consent calendar" by an 8-0 vote, with Councilman Greg Scharff absent. The cameras are expected to be purchased and installed within the next six months.