SDPD Revises Body Camera Policy After Fatal Shooting

The move comes after Officer Neal Browder shot Fridoon Zalbeg Rawshannehad to death outside a Midway District shop

The San Diego Police Department announced a change to its body camera policy after an officer failed to turn on his camera before fatally shooting a man in the Midway District.

Instead of hitting record when they contact a suspect, officers will now have to turn on their cameras before they arrive at a scene, SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman announced Thursday.

The move comes after Officer Neal Browder shot Fridoon Zalbeg Rawshannehad, 42, to death on April 30. The veteran officer did not hit record on his body worn camera before the encounter.

"All of us wish that that was captured on the body worn camera, and it wasn't captured. So we took a look at our policy to see how can we strengthen that going forward, that we would be able to capture that," said Zimmerman.

The previous body camera policy allowed officers to wait until they had made an enforcement contact before recording. Now they will have to switch their cameras on when they get the radio call.

Calls that would require recording include crimes in progress, when officers expect the suspect will still be there, Zimmerman said.

As the new policy is put into place, the chief said the SDPD will also change how officers train with the cameras as early as the police academy. Officers will wear a full body worn camera on a rotating basis so they can build muscle memory and begin to see it as another essential piece equipment.

"As the leader in body worn cameras ourselves, we're learning as we go also," she said. "Many other police departments are looking to us to see how are program is working."

But the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties said in a statement that the officer did not follow the body camera procedures as they previously stood, so more than a language change is needed.

“There’s no transparency and accountability," the ACLU statement reads. "It’s completely unacceptable that one line policy change is the same as transparency or accountability. They have policy in place. It apparently it was not followed. The solution is to not change the policy, it’s to hold officers accountable to the policy.”

ACLU spokeswoman Margaret Dooley-Sammuli said the department needs to be open about exactly what happened on April 30.

"We don't know what happened. That's the big piece," she said. "But we need to."

Zimmerman offered no new details about the investigation into last week's deadly police interaction, but she did confirm that the officer involved, Browder, has been placed on administrative leave, as is standard with officer-involved shootings.

The SDPD says just after midnight on April 30, Browder was responding to a report of a man threatening people with a knife at the Highlight Bookstore in the Midway District.

When the officer arrived behind the bookstore, he saw a man matching the suspect's description. Police say Browder gave the man verbal commands, but the suspect "continued to advance." Browder then opened fire on the man, later identified as Fridoon Zalbeg Rawshannehad, killing him.

Lt. Paul Rorrison said Tuesday that investigators found no knife on Rawshannehad's body — just a knife sheath and a shiny object. That object has been taken into evidence, but investigators have not given details about what it is or if it is considered a weapon.

Zimmerman did not answer why Browder failed to turn on his body camera. She said the SDPD's internal affairs will investigate the reason and decide if the officer will face discipline for breaking the old policy.

While there is no police footage of the shooting, Zimmerman confirmed other surveillance footage has been recovered from nearby buildings. A man who works in a building across the alley told NBC 7 he saw video of the incident.

“I support police, but this was wrong. This guy shouldn’t have been shot based on what I saw on the video,” said the man, who did not want to be identified. “The guy was walking, just normal, lazical (sic), lazy walking. If he (the officer) said ‘stop’, that’s all he said. He just opened the door, and said ‘stop’ and shot.”

Dooley-Sammuli with the ACLU called for the SDPD to release that surveillance video and show what happened that night.

The homicide unit, which is conducting its own investigation, will turn over all evidence to the District Attorney's office for further review, Rorrison told NBC 7. The case will also go before the Citizens' Review Board on Police Practices and the training division.

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