The critical moment last Thursday night when a gunman opened fire on two San Diego gang unit police officers, killing Officer Wade Irwin, may never be seen, reports the Associated Press. The surviving officer, Jonathan De Guzman, activated his camera only after the wounded shooter, Jesse Michael Gomez, 52, was running away. San Diego is among departments with policies calling for officers to turn on cameras before initiating contact with a civilian in most cases. But like other departments, compliance is less than perfect.
The result is inconsistent use of an increasingly common tool meant to give investigators and an often-skeptical public a fuller picture of police actions. “The main motive of body cameras is to provide openness and transparency, and build trust in the police,” said Samuel Walker, a retired criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. “If officers are not turning cameras on…you’re going to reinforce the cynicism that already exists.” The ACLU, which has studied the issue, said clear policies–including punishment for failure to comply–are vital.