Local police officers and deputies gave an inside perspective to the benefits and challenges of officer body cameras Tuesday night during a seminar and discussion at the University of San Diego.
The university just launched their new online “Masters of Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership” program aimed at preparing the next generation of law enforcement leaders. The officers, turned students, gathered for a seminar and discussion dealing with the future of body cameras.
“This is an evolving area and we’re here all learning,” said Michael Begovich, a San Diego County deputy public defender who led the seminar. “It’s here to stay and it’s going to evolve. Digital technologies I think can be very useful. There will be some growing pains, but ultimately I think they will prove to be a good thing."
The officers talked about some of those growing pains first-hand, including concerns about undercover officers having sensitive information revealed through recordings on other officers’ cameras.
Officers also discussed their worries over when to turn them on and off and what type of contact requires a recording.
One San Diego Police officer said ever since they’ve been required to have the cameras recording during the transport of suspects to jail, the car rides have been much quieter as officers seem hesitant to engage in personal conversation, something he once enjoyed.
But most of the officers seemed to think the benefits outweigh the negatives.
Another San Diego Police officer, who had his camera running during a recent shooting, said the footage made him feel more at ease during the routine questioning and investigation that followed.
“It makes a situation where the person that you’re dealing with, what they’re saying and doing, that’s recorded, what you’re doing and saying, is recorded," said Begovich. "So there is some accountability. Plus sides: there is transparency and I think it’s very useful evidence inside the courtroom.”
The new USD Law Enforcement Masters program is 100 percent online and the first classes start this fall.