Oakland police are among a growing number of San Francisco Bay area departments that are equipping officers with wearable, pager-size cameras, says the San Francisco Chronicle. Offcers have discretion over when they turn on the cameras, but they are not allowed to alter or erase recordings. They can review the footage when they’re writing their reports. Police officials say the cameras will be useful if a motorist later challenges a citation or makes a complaint against an officer.
The department is testing 15 cameras in the field and hopes to buy a total of 350 of the devices, made by Vievu of Seattle, at a cost of $540,000. In 2004, 74 officers tested cameras that were mounted near the rearview mirrors inside their patrol cars. Before the demonstration, 15 of the officers had been the target of internal affairs complaints. While trying the cameras, none received complaints. Those cameras, however, could capture only what they could see through the windshield – if the officers chased suspects on foot or went out of range for other reasons, the cameras were blind. Although motorists usually aren’t told when they are being recorded – there is no legal requirement to do so – officers might disclose that if a situation gets unruly, police say. “Officers and citizens both appear to behave more appropriately when they know they are being recorded,” police Capt. Ed Tracey told the City Council.