Body Camera Discussions Heat Up
Week of May 4, 2015 
By Shaun Rundle, Government Affairs and Public Safety Specialist 
With every news headline involving law enforcement that surfaces across the nation, the discussion regarding body cameras as a tool in policing transparency likewise peaks as a topic of public conversation. In response to recent events, and to kick off her campaign for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton has even called for all agencies in the country to adopt body worn cameras. Here in California, Attorney General Kamala Harris recently announced that California Department of Justice personnel will begin using body cameras. 

Last week in Sacramento, Microsoft held a Justice & Public Safety event and the closing panel of the day focused on body cameras. CPOA Law & Legislation Committee chair Ken Bernard, Deputy Chief of Sacramento Police Department represented CPOA on the body camera panel. CPOA 1st Vice President, and Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones provided a keynote address for the event, and Bernard’s panel included representatives from Oakland and South Lake Tahoe Police departments, as well as former Sacramento County Sheriff’s Captain and current Assembly member Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove). The panel was moderated by Assembly Public Safety Committee chairman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), who asked questions of the panelists regarding data and storage costs associated with body camera implementation, as well as agency policies regarding whether officers are allowed to review body camera footage prior to writing a report or making a statement. Oakland for one does not permit their officers to view footage prior to a report, while other agencies do allow viewing for their officers, so as to provide a more complete recount of events. In regards to storage costs, Bernard noted that for Sacramento Police Department storing body worn camera data would cost the agency between $600,000 and $800,000 annually. It is enormous costs like these that CPOA had shared with legislators in the capitol as they debate bills regarding body cameras.

One such bill being debated currently is AB 66 by Dr. Shirley Weber of San Diego. Weber switched focus of the bill that originally obtained best practices from various law enforcement agencies and associations (including CPOA), to an outline of statewide use policies for agencies that choose to use them. Some of the policies include prohibiting officers from viewing footage prior to a report, waiting for victims of sexual assault and violence to ask that running cameras be turned off, and that footage must be kept for a minimum of one year. CPOA favors local policy creation, as a statewide policy will not benefit the agencies throughout California that vary in size, scope, communities served and budget needs. Dr. Weber pushed the bill as a response to public distrust in law enforcement, and it was supported in Assembly Public Safety Committee and just last week was heard in Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee. That committee after hours of discussion voted to approve the bill if Dr. Weber incorporated changes to give local agencies more flexibility. As of now the amended version of AB 66 with the author’s changes is waiting to be seen. 

On the adverse, SB 175 by Senator Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) is a bill that states that agencies choosing to use body cameras must have a policy in place, which is to be developed with nonsupervisory discretion. That bill is supported by CPOA, and has passed all Senate committees and now is waiting to be heard in the Assembly. 

Body cameras continue to be one of the biggest hot-button issues for CPOA and law enforcement in general, and CPOA is actively engaged in these body camera discussions in the Capitol, and will continue to report important updates to its membership. 

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