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SFPD Putting Video Cameras On Plainclothes Cops To Counter Allegations Of Misconduct

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Surveillance video of a drug bust conducted by San Francisco Police that may show misconduct. (CBS)

Surveillance video of a drug bust conducted by San Francisco Police that may show misconduct. (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) – San Francisco police supervisors serving search warrants will soon be wearing video cameras on their chests in an effort to head off allegations of wrongdoing during raids.

About 50 plainclothes supervisors will be outfitted with $1,000 cameras within the next six weeks, Police Chief Greg Suhr said Monday. Eventually, about 150 cameras will be deployed.

“We can have a recording of the conversation at the door with regard to consent on consensual entries or the announcement on search warrant entries,” he said. “The main goal is to capture for purpose of evidence preservation the conversation at the threshold.”

After a year of vetting, the cameras will be worn over the uniform above the officer’s sternum and are a response to claims of wrondoing regarding searches of single-room occupancy hotels, Suhr said.

Nationwide, hundreds of other police departments have equipped officers with tiny body cameras to record anything from a traffic stop to a hot vehicle pursuit to an unfolding violent crime. Whether attached to shirt lapels or small headsets, the cameras are intended to provide more transparency and security to officers on the street and to reduce the number of misconduct complaints and potential lawsuits.

Two years ago, Suhr said his idea for equipping San Francisco officers with cameras came from his colleagues across the Bay Bridge, the Oakland Police Department.

That same year, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi released video footage that raised allegations police were entering hotels without search warrants and falsifying reports to justify those entries.

The allegations forced prosecutors to drop hundreds of cases and led to an ongoing federal investigation.

Suhr said he hopes the new camera videos will assure the public that officers are acting properly during raids.

“These cameras on supervisors on such entries are going to make that a moot point,” he said.

Adachi thinks the cameras are a good idea.

“The question, or problem of police accountability, is one that has plagued San Francisco and other cities for decades. What cameras will do is provide objective evidence of the circumstances in these cases,” Adachi said.

Adachi added that the cameras should be governed by strict privacy policies.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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