SAN DIEGO – Civil rights groups have released a new report that says most major metropolitan police departments have failed to set out clear rules when it comes to having police wear body cameras, or rules governing exactly how bodycam footage can be used, and said most departments aren’t making their policies available to the public.
The policy report looked at 25 major metropolitan cities and their body camera policies. San Diego was not included on that report.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis says cameras are just one tool.
“Without context, we need to be very careful about how we use them. For the public consumption.” Said District Attorney Dumanis.
The San Diego Police Chief even made changes to the policy after a high profile case where an officer failed to turn on his body camera. The new policy requires officers switch their cameras on as soon as they get a radio call.
“In my eyes I haven’t seen anything come out the way it was supposed to come out.” Said Alonzo Harvey of Pillars of the Community.
Harvey says San Diego is failing miserably when it comes to it’s body camera program.
“If I’m not mistaken, We’ve had 3 or 4 or 5 shootings dealing with officers and people in the community and there’s been no accountability for cameras being on, no cameras being on… you might have fellow officers cameras on, and there’s been no results.” Said Harvey.
The report card released today by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights lists 25 major cities and each city’s body camera policies were graded.
“As we’ve seen in the incidents going on the community has no say so and cameras aren’t on, any other time so every box would’ve been exed.” Said Harvey.
Harvey says the policy report card shows which communities need more work. He also acknowledges the devices don’t always tell the whole story but he says without body camera footage we will only have the police narrative to rely on.
“It serves both of us if they’re right for the officer’s protection, and for us as well.” Said Harvey.
The new scorecard report follows the body-worn camera policy guidelines released in May by the Leadership Conference and is the first one that grades how departments are doing. The scorecard evaluates whether each police department:
- Makes its policy publicly and readily available
- Limits officer discretion on when to record
- Addresses personal privacy concerns
- Prohibits officer pre-report viewing
- Limits retention of footage
- Protects footage against tampering and misuse
- Makes footage available to individuals filing complaints
- Limits the use of biometric technologies.
But according to the group, not one police department passed all eight evaluations. Atlanta and Ferguson, Mo., failed all eight, meaning the two departments either had a poor policy regarding body-worn cameras or failed to put for a specific policy at all.
Though city departments in Philadelphia, Detroit, San Antonio and Albuquerque have deployed body cameras, they all failed to release any policy.
About a third of all departments do not make their policies public and readily available on the department’s websites. And Upturn, every department examined allows its officers to watch video of an incident before filing a report, giving officers “an undue advantage over other witnesses in a court of law.”
Only a few cities like Parker, Colo., and Washington, D.C., scored well. Those cities provide individuals, including those seeking to file a police misconduct complaint, with a specific process to view the footage captured by the body cameras. But even those cities meet just four of the eight standards put forward by the group.
Baltimore’s police department is the only city with a policy that limits the use of biometric technologies (such as facial recognition), a step that the Leadership Conference believes “will help improve community relations and dampen fears about the surveillance potential that cameras could bring.”