Carlsbad equips some officers with body cameras

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CARLSBAD, Calif. – Carlsbad police are testing out body-worn cameras with a half-dozen officers over the next couple of months.

The test period, which will begin Tuesday and is expected to last four to six weeks, will help the agency’s leadership gauge the equipment with the intention of ultimately equipping all its sworn personnel and community- services officers with the video recorders.

“We are always looking for ways to be innovative and use technology to ensure effective police work,” said interim Police Chief Neil Gallucci. “Body- worn cameras not only assist in the collection of evidence, but they can also enhance public trust and our ability to safely collaborate toward the common goal of a safe and secure Carlsbad.”

After researching cameras and vendors, the department chose the TASER Axon Flex camera, a model used by other local law enforcement agencies.

During the trial, footage will be stored by the TASER company under an agreement that will allow the county District Attorney’s Office access to it.

The department is finalizing a policy that directs officers when to turn on body-worn cameras, when not to use them, who can access the footage and when, and how the collected data is to be stored. When complete, the rules will be available for public viewing on the department’s website.

The cameras will be clearly visible when in use by officers in the field. Citizens should assume the devices are recording at any given time and are encouraged to inquire about their use, department officials said.

“We want to involve the community as we test and roll out this new tool,” Gallucci said. “We understand there is a lot of curiosity about body- worn cameras, and we want the public to have as much information as possible about the department’s use of this resource.”

Other area agencies that are testing or have adopted body-worn cameras include the county Sheriff’s Department and police departments in Chula Vista, Coronado, Escondido and San Diego.

TASER provided the cameras for the Carlsbad trial at no charge. Following its evaluation of the program, the department will consider buying cameras for 115 sworn officers and 11 community-services officers.

The expense for the first year is projected to be about $212,300. The cost includes the equipment, officer training and data storage. The tab for each subsequent years is projected at roughly $123,150.