Police Chief Suggests Pushing Body-Camera Program to 2016

San Jose plans to roll out yet another pilot program testing body-worn cameras on police officers this fall. That would push the date of official deployment out to late 2016.

Twelve officers have volunteered to test a few different products for about four months, studying ease of use, time spent working with cameras, downloading data and quality of the outcome. Results of the four-month test will help the city draft a request-for-proposal process, which will take a half-year to complete.

In a report going before the City Council Tuesday, Chief Larry Esquivel says SJPD is still working with the police union to draft a policy that addresses officers' rights and privacy issues.

Several other Bay Area jurisdictions have already deployed officer-worn cameras, including Oakland, Gilroy, Union City, Los Gatos, Campbell and BART.

San Jose tested body cameras in 2009 and 2012, under chiefs Rob Davis and Chris Moore. Despite repeated pressure from Independent Police Auditor LaDoris Cordell, who says cameras would improve accountability and protect officers from frivolous complaints, the program never got past its pilot stage.

In response to public criticism in the wake of high-profile officer-involved shootings last year, President Obama announced plans to invest $75 million, through a 50 percent matching arrangement with local governments, to increase the number of cops with body cameras. The grants would cover the cost of data storage and equipment. San Jose plans to apply for some of that funding.

Police agencies have been testing the technology for the better part of a decade. As the cameras become more widespread, the U.S. Department of Justice has come up with a primer for their use.

The DOJ study found that police departments using the cameras reduce the risk of litigation. In Rialto, California, police reduced the number of citizen complaints against officers by 88 percent in one year after deploying the cameras.

Meanwhile, operational costs have gone down and technologies have improved.

"With dozens of police departments already demonstrating the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of this equipment, it's time for San Jose to move forward," council members Raul Peralez, Rose Herrera, Chappie Jones and Mayor Sam Liccardo write in a joint memo.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for April 14, 2015:

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to jenniferw@metronews.com or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

15 Comments

  1. A huge part of why body cameras were not approved under both Chief Davis and Moore is because a very small vocal group of activists screamed that they were an invasion of citizen’s privacy. I found that argument rather hypocritical, given that they were out there filming, and recording Officers on duty trying to get them in trouble.

    The simple truth is, no matter where we go these days, or what we buy on line, or in stores with a grocery savings card, or driving down a street, or riding in an elevator, or using Smart Phones, or Facebook, etc. our movements, and purchases are being watched/filed/tracked. We don’t have privacy any more. And if you aren’t doing anything wrong, there’s nothing to be worried about right?

    I personally support body cameras. I think they keep everyone honest. For those who aren’t being honest, well then their bad behavior will be exposed. Or at least I think it will, if strict guidelines on usage are followed.

      • No need for cameras when we have the Guardian Angels patrolling the areas of Poco/Sunset, Story/Kollmar, Lanai/Tully and other gang infested areas??? San Pedro Square is well protected Robert…hahahaha

        • Is that you again JR? (Josh, please, squash.. Feel free to squash my comment when you do, because it’s not going to flow with the article)

          Offtopic as usual, the GA’s patrols have nothing to do with officers wearing cameras. If you want to know, we’ve done a ton of work in the Fountain Alley area. Our facebook page has a lot of pictures from citizens happy that we’re out. We’ve chased off the same gang that’s been hanging out there 3 weeks in a row. We are here to support SJPD any way we can.

          BTW we tape our entire patrol too. We do it because people know video is truth, and they tend to not want to look like idiots on it.

    • The cameras could do a lot of good. There is a privacy issue though. You could be filming a victim at their most vulnerable moment. If they know they are being filmed, it could have a very chilling result on a successful interview. The police detractors will want the cameras running at all times, taking discretion away from the officers.

      • Observation: You have a very valid point. Any suggestions on how to do this correctly?

        • That is a very tough one, Kathleen. Many calls are chaotic scenes and an officer does not know exactly the situation they are going to encounter. Because of this, it will be inevitable to film a victim if they are still on scene, which become a permanent record. Since officers will not have the discretion of what to tape, I do not know how this could be corrected.

          • Observation- Thank you. I see the problem. Perhaps some type of safe guard needs to be put into this process to protect a child who has been molested, or a rape victim, etc. from being re-victimized. I wonder how other cities deal with this?

  2. I agree and I think in most cases, cameras will help the police. Two cases come to my mind where police were accused of racially profiling, etc., but once the videos surfaced, these allegations were found false and the truth was that the cops couldn’t have been any nicer. One recent case being that of actress Taraji Henson’s son and the second case was the Oakland Fire Fighter. Hopefully, this will also help weed out any bad apples.

  3. So “The Capital of Silicon Valley” is STILL DEBATING whether or not to use something that’s been a common practice for police depts all over the world since 2005? Wow…

  4. I have a problem with body cameras. Will there be a sunset for recorded stops and interactions with the public that are eventually resolved. I for one would not answer a knock on the door from a police officer wearing one of these mini cams unless required by a warrant.

  5. Considering the angle of view that police have when making a traffic stop their will be a lot of down blouse recordings for pervs in the IT Department to drool over. There needs to be a sunset on these records.

  6. OMG! whats going to happen if we find out the Cops are actual the good guy, and we are a bunch of jerks?