SDPD Seeks More Officer Body Cams; Public Access to Videos Still at Issue - NBC 7 San Diego

SDPD Seeks More Officer Body Cams; Public Access to Videos Still at Issue

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    NEWSLETTERS

    SDPD Seeks to Expand Officer Body Cameras

    The San Diego Police Department is looking to expand its use of officer body cameras to patrol sergeants and future recruits. NBC 7's Gene Cubbison reports. (Published Monday, Nov. 9, 2015)

     The San Diego Police Department is looking to expand its use of officer body cameras to patrol sergeants and future recruits.

    It's a move that's raising further questions about their deployment and public access to what's recorded.

    San Diego is the nation's largest city to provide all of its police patrol commands with body cameras.

    Early studies indicate they've improved relations between officers and the public.

    But citizen activists and lawmakers complain that department leaders are still resisting calls for transparency.

    "And they are basically opposed to any kind of policy that they themselves don't write,” says Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-79th District).

    “So as a result,” Weber added in an interview Monday, “they are not going to have the level of transparency that the public wants. And that's going to be an ongoing challenge."

    But there's no turning back from law enforcement's buy-in to body cameras.

    At SDPD, officials are asking City Hall to approve a two-year contract extension with Taser International Inc. -- from five to seven years, budgeting another $1.9 million for a total of nearly $6 million if all annual options are exercised.

    The deal would include not just cameras but related hardware, docking/charging stations, evidence management software, licenses and storage.

    As for transparency, SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman says recordings are accessible to defense attorneys and independent community review board members.

    “To the entities that have it, I think it's a misconception for people to say that we don't let anyone see the video, that's just not accurate,” she told NBC 7. “There are many entities that see the video."

    But to critics, that doesn’t go far enough.

    Says Liam Dillon, who’s covered the issue for NBC 7’s media partner Voice of San Diego: "Her perspective is that 'evidence is evidence is evidence' and nothing can get out beyond the very strict structure that she has in place to allow certain groups of people -- and only certain groups of people to view it."

    The body-cam contract extension will be reviewed Thursday by the City Council's Public Safety and Livable Neighborhood's Committee.

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