The use of body cameras by San Diego Police officers, was mandated in January 2014, to give the department a way to be more transparent and hold officers, as well as the public, accountable for their actions.
According to a report, developed by the Police Department for the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee, based on preliminary statistics gathered for 2014 and January 2015, the use of body cameras by SDPD has led to fewer complaints by residents and less use of force by officers. Complaints have fallen 40.5%, and use of personal body force, by officers, has been reduced by 46.5%, and use of pepper spray by 30.5%.
By the end of 2015, the department plans to have nearly 1,000 officers equipped with the small cameras, including patrol officers, gang-unit officers and motorcycle officers. Currently, 600 officers have body cameras.
SDPD Chief Zimmerman, says SDPD has more cameras in the field than any other department in the nation, “We’re the eighth largest city in the United States, and if you take all the other larger cities above us, we have more body-worn cameras out right now – 600 cameras- than all of the others combined”.
Recently, SDPD revised its policy on how officers would activate the recording device. Instead of hitting record when they contact a suspect, officers will now have to turn on their cameras before they arrive at a scene. The previous body camera policy allowed officers to wait until they had made an enforcement contact. Now, they will have to switch their cameras on when they get the radio call. The move comes after officer Neal Browder, shot Fridoon Zalbeg Rawshannehad, 42, to death on April 30. The 27-year veteran officer, did not hit record on his body worn camera before the encounter.
In the wake of a series of racially charged incidents around the country, between white officers and black men, like in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, the issue of body cameras has vaulted into public consciousness. In 2014, President Barack Obama requested $263 million to provide cops with cameras and training, while police departments from Portland, Oregon, to Lowell, Arkansas, to Rome, New York, have taken steps to begin equipping their officers. On May 1 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a $20 million pilot program to extend the use of police body cameras for transparency.
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