San Jose, Ca., police, under fire for interactions with the public that have turned violent, have launched a pilot project equipping officers with head-mounted cameras to record contacts with civilians, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Officers will activate the cameras, about the size of a Bluetooth device and attached by a headband above the ear, every time they respond or make contact with a person. At the end of the officer’s shift, the recording will be downloaded to a central server. Chief Rob Davis said the devices, to be tested by 18 patrol officers, are a technological advance comparable to the advent of police cars, two-way radios, and the 911 emergency system.
San Jose is the first major U.S. city to try out the devices, known as AXON. Although officers are already bearing vests, weapons, and radios, most of them welcome adding a camera to record their actions, Davis said. In addition, he said, “We’re making it so it has cachet.” A leading critic of the department welcomed the cameras as a tool to provide useful evidence, but dismissed their significance as a solution to rocky police-community relations. “The AXON project is unfortunately a positive thing right now because the level of distrust is so high,” said Raj Jayadev of the community organization Silicon Valley De-Bug. “But it doesn’t address the more fundamental problem: What stereotypes police may carry when they see people of color on the street and make assumptions about character.”