A new city audit -- that looked at over two million records and 450 hours of body cam video from October 2020 to September 2021 -- found there was not a clear expectation for which incidents officers should record and put out a list of recommendations based on their findings.
The auditor recommends seven changes including taking the guesswork out of recording and simply doing it every time an officer is dispatched to a call. Also, making it clear when officers can stop recording and when body camera footage will be released to the public.
The auditor found that officers appeared to not record 29% of arrests and 42% of calls for assault with a deadly weapon.
A retired homicide detective and former San Diego County sheriff deputy Pete Carrillo said this not only ensures accountability to the public but also protects officers.
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San Diego Police leadership has been cooperative but is raising concerns.
“The San Diego Police Officer’s Association was not part of the audit, nor consulted thus far by City Auditor on the implications. It is concerning the auditor would come to such drastic conclusions without consulting the rank and file members working on the streets. There are currently robust checks and balances between supervision and management. Officers are held accountable when they do not conform to the policy. We look forward to reviewing this issue further, confirming the accuracy of the data, and the meet and confer process regarding any proposed changes,” San Diego Police Officer's Association president Jared Wilson said.
The auditor’s office said they did consult with officers by doing ride-alongs and talking to sergeants about how they use the cameras.
The police department has agreed to implement the recommendations, but Chief David Neisleit noted, "recommendations could infringe on privacy rights, produce negative impacts on community relationships, and signal a lack of trust to officers.”
Neisleit added that the changes will introduce working conditions that, “will impact recruitment and retention, and substantially increase the fiscal costs of the BWC program.”
There are exceptions. Officers do not have to turn on their cameras when talking to a crime victim or a confidential informant.
Other large cities including Los Angeles, San Jose and the San Diego Sheriff’s Department have policies similar to what the city is proposing for San Diego police.
“Look, I think if you’re a legit officer and you’re doing your job like you’re supposed to and you’re accountable to the public, you’d have no problem turning your camera on, on every call,” Carrillo said “It’s those officers that unfortunately make it through the cracks that are maybe not doing what they’re supposed to be doing when nobody’s watching. Those are the ones that gotta be worried.”
These findings will be presented Wednesday morning to the audit committee. The police department will implement these changes, about a year from now, officials said.