SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Officers in the Oakland Police Department have been wearing body cameras since 2010, but officials in the Bay Area warn there could be consequences in the push to incorporate the cameras nationwide, and not just for police.
Many people think the cameras will catch police engaging in bad behavior, but nine times out of 10 the camera will be pointed at citizens during what may not be their finest moments.
“There are moments when we don’t get to see people at their best,” San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi agreed with Suhr, saying the videos “essentially creates a permanent record of someone’s arrest.” “If someone is arrested it often shows them at their worst moment. If someone is arrested for a DUI do you want a permanent record on YouTube for everyone to see your arrest?” Adachi said.
In a recent case of an Amber Alert in Fairfield, the family of the kidnapped child released a video of the police handcuffing the mother of the child after the parents refused to let police search their home. Police released a statement of their version saying the mother was prohibiting them from their investigation.
Chris Conley of the ACLU had concerns over privacy issues.
“It could be used to invade people’s privacy on the streets, in particularly if someone goes into a house or other private space,” he said.
KCBS morning anchor Stan Bunger makes the point this was all done without anyone filing a Freedom of Information Act request and there was no court order. It really raises the question of what videos will be released by police when this body-cam footage becomes available.
“Some groups have the question of whether or not the cops should be the arbitrator of what gets out,” Matier said. “Is [the video] part of the police report now? Is it part of the incident report? If the video is part of an investigation is it tied up and do prosecutors and defense have access to them?”
Matier said the money to spend on police-worn body cameras is being rushed because it’s a political hot topic, but other police departments, including San Francisco’s and even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) aren’t quite sure what the legal parameters are of access to these videos are and what the legal ramifications of including bystanders will be.
Could some people have a YouTube moment for the rest of their life because of a cop?
Chief Suhr said he thinks the cameras could affect behavior on both sides of the badge.
“The officers know they are wearing them, so their behavior is going to be better, and by telling the citizen that they are going to be on camera then the citizen is going to behave better too.”