When Should Police Officers Be Able To See Body Camera Video?


Should police officers be allowed to view footage from their body cameras before they write reports for a prosecutor? A debate over that question is brewing in California and across the nation as lawmakers consider standards for how officers should use the new technology, reports U-T San Diego. Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and civil rights advocates say police should not be permitted to view the footage early on because it's not fair to criminal defendants and it's not the intended use of the cameras. Weber has proposed a bill that would set statewide guidelines for police use of body cameras.

Agencies including the San Diego and Chula Vista police departments say the proposal would unnecessarily hamstring their officers from submitting the most accurate reports possible. Chula Vista Chief David Bejarano wants them to be able to view the video early on. “I think it's important to have an accurate, factual report,” said Bejarano. “(Without this ability), it could be a disadvantage. Incidents happen very quickly. Officers are multi-tasking. We're all human. We might miss something.” While many of the police agencies now using body cameras allow officers to view the video footage, some do not. Officers with the Oakland Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's jail deputies are prohibited from doing so, according to policies cited by the American Civil Liberties Union of California.

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