The San Diego Police officer involved in a fatal shooting Thursday did not have his body camera on during the incident, investigators said, raising serious concerns about police accountability.
A 27-year veteran of the SDPD shot and killed a man who police said was wielding a knife outside of a Midway District porn shop Thursday morning.
None of the incident was caught on camera, despite the SDPD’s recent investment to outfit its officers with the body-worn devices.
“Did the officer do something wrong with respect to using his body camera?” said ACLU Advocacy and Policy Counsel Chad Marlow. “I think it appears that clearly the answer is yes."
SDPD investigators have not yet interviewed the officer involved. They said he encountered a man in an alley who matched the description of a suspect threatening a porn shop clerk. When the man refused to follow orders from police, the officer shot him, officials said.
Police will not be releasing the suspect's identity because his family requested they withhold it.
But Marlow told NBC 7 questions remain, and a lack of footage will not help clarify what led to the shooting.
“As soon as they got that 911 call and turned their cruiser toward the scene, the body camera should have gone on," said Marloew.
No one from the SDPD would do an interview with NBC 7 Friday, but they pointed us to their body camera policy, which states, "Officer safety shall be the primary consideration when contacting citizens or conducting vehicle stops, not the ability to record an event."
Marlow argued that the provision was written in case an officer was suddenly attacked or involved in an unexpected emergency.
“But in this case, they had an entire drive to the scene and a moment to pause before they go out of the car and confronted the gentlemen who was acting erratically to turn the camera,” said Marlow. “So this is not a situation where the officer had to make a decision between protecting his safety and turning on his camera."
SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman has said in the past that if an officer intentionally does not record an event, that officer is subject to disciplinary action, which could include termination.