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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Decision on SFPD Body Cameras Due Tonight

Posted By on Wed, Dec 2, 2015 at 1:16 PM

click to enlarge Body cameras yes, reviewing maybe? - MIKE KOOZMIN/SF EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/SF Examiner
  • Body cameras yes, reviewing maybe?

San Francisco police officers will be issued body cameras next year.

This — the "biggest change to the SFPD" since city police started carrying radios and switched their firearms from six-shot revolvers to semi-automatic pistols, in the words of the city's police union — is happening as early as January, after Mayor Ed Lee set aside $3 million to buy 1,800 cameras last year.

What's unsure is how exactly police will be able to use the footage of their encounters with the public — and whether or not police will be allowed to view footage of incidents before writing reports. That debate is sparking a conflict between the usual suspects — that is, police and lawyers — that's in front of the city's Police Commission tonight.

As the Chronicle's Vivian Ho reports today, the Police Commission has not been able to come up with a body camera policy for many months. Before them tonight are two choices — one that would allow police to view camera footage in all instances, and another that would bar them from viewing the footage in certain incidents.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, and the Bar Association all want to prohibit police from viewing body camera footage after certain incidents, including officer-involved shootings, incidents of possible excessive force, and other potentially-controversial encounters with the public. The reasoning is that video can influence a witness's recollection of events. 

The politically-powerful Police Officers Association wants the footage viewed before a cop writes a report in all instances.

"To require an officer to complete a police incident report without reviewing all available evidence is a disservice to the officer, the victim, the suspect and public safety," as POA President Martin Halloran writes in the current issue of the POA Journal, adding to the Chronicle yesterday that if they can't do that, they might advise police officers to refuse to cooperate in investigations.

We'll see what happens tonight.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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