Phil Matier: BART Police Officers To Wear Cameras

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BART train (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A BART train at a station. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — Following the fatal shootings of Oscar Grant and Charles Hill, BART Police has come under scrutiny for their use of force in some tense situations. Now the agency is testing out a new program that can record their every move from their point of view.

The agency has launched a pilot program that gives officers small cameras that clip onto their uniforms to make a permanent record.

“We’re trying to get more transparency,” said BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey. “Plus it’s actually better protection for our personnel, because the camera is going to be the best evidence of what transpired at an incident.”

If an officer feels like they are entering a potentially troubling situation, the officer can flip the camera on. The camera does not allow officers to tamper with or erase the videos, which are downloaded onto a computer at the station.

The idea for officer-worn cameras came from a similar program at the Oakland Police Department. Law enforcement grants are paying for the program, which costs around $300,000. The idea is to make the camera as much as a tool for police as much as a Taser or a radio.

Attorney John Burris, who has sued BART and other police departments over questionable use of force, supports the cameras. But he does have one reservation.

“I’m for anything that records the event in real time as it is happening,” Burris said. “The issue you have with this is; when do you turn it on?”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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