San Jose Police Union, City Agree to Terms on Body-Worn Cameras

After several delays and stalled pilot programs, the city of San Jose and its police union have reached an agreement that should lead to all officers being equipped with body-worn cameras by next summer.

In a press release, city officials and the San Jose Police Officers Association (SJPOA) said the policy will make sure “privacy rights of victims, witnesses, innocent bystanders and police officers” are a priority. As part of that pledge, the agreement “expressly prohibits the videotaping of free speech demonstrations and other venues where there is an expectation of privacy such as hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other medical facilities.”

While it makes sense to exclude audio and video recordings at the latter facilities, the former—free speech demonstrations—is a bit of a double-edged sword. While there are concerns that law enforcement could target and track political activists and members of the public who attend rallies, recent clashes between police and protesters across the nation suggest there is a need to document demonstrations in the event arrests and violent interactions occur.

The policy sets out “specific protocols” for documenting encounters between police and the public, but those details have not been released. San Jose Inside asked city officials for details on whether audio and video recordings will be subjected to Public Records Act requests, but no answer has been provided yet.

"We are continuing to work hard with other stakeholders toward full implementation of body-worn cameras,” Police Chief Larry Esquivel said in a statement. “It’s a process, but now we’re much closer to full implementation. In this case, technology, transparency, and healthy relationships are vital to our success in how we build community trust and better serve our residents."

This is especially true after a report this week found that police are targeting Latinos and African Americans at a far higher rate than whites and Asians.

Mayor Sam Liccardo has made a public push for expediting the rollout of body-worn cameras (BWC) in the last few weeks, following Esquivel’s announcement in March that he hoped to roll out cameras by the end of next year.

“Today’s agreement with the SJPOA on a body-worn camera policy strengthens the bonds between our officers and community and makes a great police department even better,” Liccardo said in the press release. “I remain committed to deploying body-worn cameras on every patrol officer in San José during the coming fiscal year.”

Similar to all complaints filed against the police by members of the public, the Independent Police Auditor’s office will have a role in reviewing complaints related to BWCs.

Paul Kelly, president of the SJPOA, said in the release that the union looks forward to the “swift implementation of this important technology.”

According to a Mercury News report, Oakland rolled out BWCs for all officers in 2013 and saw a dramatic fall in "use-of-force" incidents. And citizen complaints in 2014 were reduced by 60 percent—more than 1,500 complaints—compared to 2012.

These types of changes not only can lead to greater relationships between police and the public, but over time they can save a city millions of dollars in court settlements.

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.

31 Comments

  1. Thank you for coming to terms with this SJPD. I think you’re going to find that the hooligans act a lot differently when they know you have a camera pointed at them. It should make your job a little easier.

      • Ditto. In agreement with you both. I think the public behaves differently and if there’s a bad apple among the force, that officer too would modify his/her behavior.

    • interesting…. I can see where one might theorize that bad actors will behave better knowing that the police are recording them. I really do and I would hope that is what happens.

      The cynic and the skeptik and worse the distrust I have in the City and the IPA and her community advisors group apparently want wording in the Police Department’s camera use policy to forbid recording at ” free speech dekonstrations.”
      A reasonable interpretation would be like an occupy protest or protest against police use of force where tensions and speech and violent confrontations are likely…so exactly the type of activity that the public wants to monitor it police in is not going to be allowed? Why have the cameras then?

      The even less trusting side of me is wondering what exactly a “free speech demonstration” is. It can be anything anytime anyplace anywhere any circumstance where someone is moving their lips (except in a crowded theater) or burning a flag!

      We already have the aclu and it’s like saying they want cameras but then they don’t want them because they will intrude on privacy…. so why do we need cameras?

      Don’t get me wrong. If I were a police I would want a camera . I would run that thing until the memory was full and battery was dead then I’d have a spare to cover my a $$ and to show exactly the type of scum I was protecting you sheep from.

      Isnt it amazing how the very peoole who have demanded the cameras (Ladoris), demanded police accountability (Cordell ) and think the police are the problem (and her ilk) are the same people who would attempt to limit camera use? It has been said many times … they are a very disingenuous lot.

      • Weed my theory is based on years of personal experience. I can’t count how many times incidents were diffused after pointing at a rolling camera and saying, “You might get me, but I have your face on video.”

        While it won’t work 100% of the time, especially with violent, drugged out, mentally ill, for me I got about an 80% hit rate meaning, the aggression just stopped. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just point some electronic device at someone and they stop being aggressive? If the aggression doesn’t stop, you have the video. SJSU campus police just had some video save an officers reputation (and the school 1000’s in lawyers)

        http://www.mercurynews.com/crime-courts/ci_28170143/family-man-killed-by-sjsu-police-criticize-decision

        As far as my own personal anecdote.. One night at 7 Bamboo some girls were sicking their boyfriend on some guy just completely wasted. You know how it goes, girl gets offended, tells her man to “Defend my honor” as some backwards form of chivalry. You know what a wrist lock is… Look at the aggressor doing wrist locks on the drunk guy. It’s obvious he’s trained for battle. It’s just hilarious how they go from wanting the guy annihilated to, “We’re trying to help him!”

        I got bullied a lot in school. Everytime some teacher ran up to get some cro-magnon to stop wailing on me, the bully would stop, lurch me up off the ground by my arm while saying, “I’m just trying to help him up! He fell! Honest!”

        I’ve probably shown you this before. I still get a kick out of it.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LY4Xgy1M4v4

  2. I’m still waiting for the SJI story detailing the racial breakdown of criminal suspects in San Jose, because that kind of information would be highly relevant when analyzing the SJPD detention data. Given the outstanding and unbiased reporting that SJI is so well known for, I’m sure sure that story will be published any day now, right?

  3. Don’t hold your breath Pete, These so called knuckle head reporters are still waiting for the information to be spoon fed to them by their cronies in City Hall. All their printed articles are already written for them by City Hall. I think all they do is spell check before the articles got to print. You will see it published when X-Mayor GREED gives up on his illegal pension reform. Oh, that’s right; that arrogant SOB is still pushing his illegal reform at the state level in ‘2016’. Like I said, don’t hold your breath…

  4. “…the agreement ‘expressly prohibits the videotaping of free speech demonstrations’…” Given the extension of what constitutes “speech”, which began with the Warren Court, the definition of a “free speech demonstration” becomes hugely important. Is it defined within this agreement between the city and the POA? According to the mainstream media, the recent riots and looting in Ferguson, Staten Island, Oakland, and elsewhere were “demonstrations” by “protestors”. I can easily see litigation from both camps— wrongfully recording “free speech” riots, as well as failing to record them. Lotsa work for lawyers on both sides of the “was it a free speech protest demonstration or a riot?” aisle.

    • Carving out an “exception” for “free speech” is absurd.

      The point of the FIrst Amendment is that free speech is the RULE not the exception.

      This is as wacky as the Bureau of Land Management’s “First Amendment Zone” way out in the middle of nowhere in Nevada when the BLM was trying to take Cliven Bundy’s land.

      http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/nevada/free-speech-zones-blm-cattle-roundup-put-controversial-areas-spotlight

      http://beforeitsnews.com/contributor/upload/12342/images/Bk1E1KkCEAE57Zo.jpg

    • BTW, JohnMichael, you mentioned you were on a grand jury.

      What is you take on the state legislature’s scheme to take away authority of grand juries to look at police shootings?

      • SJ Bubble: I was on the civil grand jury, which can investigate and report on issues involving government entities and special districts in the county, and issues recommendations to correct problems it discovers, if any, during its investigation. Each county has its own civil grand jury. Members serve for a one year term, and can seek to remain one additional year. Members are appointed by the presiding judge of the superior court. What you are asking about is the criminal grand jury, which is a secret proceeding at which only the D.A. gets to produce evidence and examine witnesses in order to obtain a criminal indictment against an accused. The criminal grand process is totally one-sided, but in modern times is largely unused in California. Instead, in most cases the D.A. files either misdemeanor or felony charges against an accused who has been arrested for a crime he/she allegedly committed It has the advantage for the prosecution that the criminal defense attorney has little idea before trial what the witnesses have said, unless the court unseals the grand jury transcript; whereas in all other cases, defense counsel can cross-examine witnesses at a preliminary hearing, which is much like a deposition in civil cases, but with less latitude. I think the criminal grand jury system should be abolished in its entirety, due to its one-sidedness and secrecy. In my opinion abolishing the grand jury only in cop cases sends a hugely unwarranted bad message about how the government feels about the police in general, as a result of as yet unsubstantiated allegations of police racial bias by a minute percentage of police officers nationwide. It points an accusing finger at all cops, which is like using a tactical nuclear weapon to kill a single cockroach. To me, this proposal is shameful grandstanding by its author. Long answer to a short question.

        • > To me, this proposal is shameful grandstanding by its author.

          Thanks for the info.

          I’m just a tiny little civilian pissant who doesn’t know anything about grand juries.

          One take that I heard was that abolishing grand juries for cop cases was a scheme by the mob-o-crats to find another way to take down the cops and “get the man”.

          The “progressives” were mad that the Ferguson police office escaped their lynch mob and they wanted to skew the process so that it was more under the control of their political “central committee”. Having Eric Holder do “civil rights Investigations, was not certain enough, and they wanted more legalistic weapons, and backdoor methods to impose their type of justice.

          So, the scheme is to take cop cases away form decentralized, closer to the grass roots, grand juries, and put them in the hands of top of the food chain, likely to be ambitious, populist politicians. Can you say Kamala Harris?

          I don’t trust ANYTHING that the buzzards in Sacramento do.

  5. Bubble you hit a triple on this one…. I won’t say a home run but we surely agree here! BTW the buzzards are here too.

  6. Body cameras. It’s not about transparency. It’s about the truth. Please carefully consider what the camera does and does not see, in the same incident. It is THE reason cops are not fans of body cameras.

    What the body camera WOULD see: Two police officers approach an “ethnic” male who is standing in a grassy area of an apartment complex, doing nothing. The officers try to engage the subject in conversation. The subject gives no response or answers in a low, almost unintelligible voice. Then, for no apparent reason, the officers pounce on the subject. All persons go to the ground where a violent struggle occurs, the subject screams in pain, an officer curses (M–F–!). An officer ultimately “chokes” the subject into unconsciousness. While still on the ground cuffing the subject, several bystanders approach, one has a cell phone camera. The officers yell for the bystanders to step back and when they don’t, one officer pepper-sprays the cell phone guy and the others for no reason. Other officers arrive, the crowd is dispersed, and the subject is driven to jail. Video (“Police Beat Ethnic Teen”) hits the media and controversy explodes.

    What the camera WOULD NOT see: An apartment complex resident phones police to report that her neighbors are not home and a subject unfamiliar to the caller knocked on the front door of the neighbor’s apartment then went around to the back and is looking over the back fence into the small patio area and at the sliding glass door there. The caller describes the subject only as an “ethnic” male in his late teens or early 20’s, “average height and weight” (Caller: “I don’t know how tall he is, just get someone out here!”), wearing dark clothing and some kind of cap. Caller doesn’t know if the subject has anyone with him.

    The officers arrive and contact the subject in a small grassy courtyard area near the rear of an apartment. Lighting is poor “camera photo lighting” but it’s not pitch dark. As the officers approach, they notice that the subject “unlocks” his knees (a very slight bend of the knee, generally imperceptible to an untrained eye, or camera; unnecessary for talking but absolutely mandatory before initiating a physical attack). One officer asks the subject, “What’s going on, my man?” The subject does not respond. Subject is wearing a large untucked shirt and other clothing consistent with gang membership and a cap with the “logo” (3 letters) of a known gang that frequents (“claims”) that area. Subject’s eyes are darting around frantically from officer to officer and to the sides as far as he can see without turning his head significantly. It is obvious to both officers, based on experience, that the subject is exhibiting unmistakable indications that he is considering whether to fight, flee, toss evidence, try to lie his way out, or attack and is stalling by way of marginal cooperation until his decision is made.

    The subject first moves his right hand to the side of his neck in an obviously forced nonchalance and pretends to scratch. An officer asks the subject his name. The subject slowly answers, in a low and slightly irritated tone, giving his first name only, “Floyd”. The subject continues slowly and occasionally scratching his outer clothing. One officer recognizes this, from experience, as a possible attempt to distract an officer’s attention and accustom the officer to the subject’s hand movement so it will be less obvious if the subject subsequently reaches into his clothing. Officers continue trying to make small talk. The subject pretends to scratch his right side ribs and later the side of his right buttocks area. The officers make eye contact with each other and silently make sure they both saw the movements. One officer steps slowly to one side as the subject slowly starts a scratching movement to the lower right hip area. The subject’s thumb though is now at a different angle which would enable it to flip his shirt tail back and fingers are curled toward his rear waistband. From experience, the officer recognizes that the subject is not likely about to scratch himself but may instead be reaching for a weapon or contraband in his rear waistband area. Rather than wait to see a weapon produced, the officer grabs the subject’s wrist to stop its movement. The subject reacts before the officer can speak. The subject jerks his arm back violently and the fight erupts.

    All persons go to the ground and one officer is able to reach into the subject’s waistband, remove a large hunting knife and toss it a few feet away, out of reach, until he and the other officer can gain control of the subject and retrieve the knife. There’s no other way to secure it at that moment. Body cameras are worn at front shirt pocket height and are rolling around and recording only rolling, confusing images of the ground, the apartment fences and subject’s upper torso area and don’t capture the knife being removed, as this is below the camera angles. One officer mashes his knee on a sprinkler head and curses (M–F–!) from the pain. Unable to control the subject any other way, one officer places his arm around the subject’s neck, in a hold that deliberately protects the subject’s throat with the crook of the arm and applies only side neck pressure to restrict blood flow to the brain and the subject goes briefly unconscious and is cuffed.

    At some point in the struggle, one officer tries to apply an armbar to the subject’s “knife hand” arm but fear-induced adrenalized strength unintentionally dislocates the subject’s elbow and evokes a scream. Before the subject is completely controlled, bystanders approach, begin yelling and pressing in. At least one of the bystanders is using his cell phone camera and one of the officers sees another bystander looking directly at and sidling toward the unsecured hunting knife on the grass. After the bystander continues to ignore repeated directions to step away, the officer, still struggling with the wriggling subject, pepper-sprays the bystander to keep him away from the knife and in the process unavoidably sprays the cell phone guy and several other bystanders.

    The subject turns out to be a 17 ½ year old, 6’-4”, 230 pound juvenile who has been previously convicted of burglary and ADW and is a suspect in at least 1 recent gang stabbing. He is “just a youth”. The District Attorney declines to prosecute the officers for assault. The City settles a lawsuit out of court; The officers are fired by a politically pressured Chief but are reinstated, with back-pay, after an arbitration hearing determines they had done nothing wrong. The officers use their back-pay to pay off long overdue bills, pay back loans and try to repair damaged credit. One officer’s wife divorces him after he develops a drinking problem in the aftermath of the incident.

    The Legacy of the body camera: Officers receive a suspicious person call. Officers respond, drive around the area for a couple minutes, shine a spotlight around, and never get out of their patrol car then leave, after advising that they found nothing. The following morning, another officer takes a burglary report at that same location.

    • Those are some good observations I think we rely too much on one-sided videos/ information.

    • I think the idea of police body cams are way over sold.

      Its probably a lot like instant replay in football, only a lot worse. In the case of body cams, there will usually be only one video record, pointed in the wrong direction, and showing something that is at odds with what two or three witness claim they saw.

      Who ya gonna believe?

      I took a class in video production a number of years back. The instructor made the interesting point that most of the information that viewers gain from video is WHAT THEY ARE TOLD THE VIDEO SHOWS!

      In other words, SEEING is not necessarily believing; HEARING is BELIEVING!

      Next time you watch a low budget documentary on cable, focus on what the video is actually showing. Very often, the video is fairly mundane “B-roll” showing nothing but generic activities, often very highly repetitious.

      I’ve been sucked in more than a few times to watch some “dramatic, never been seen before, footage of a spectacular UFO sighting”, only to see some shaky, blurry light blotches in a pitch black night sky.

      Some times videos show something useful, but must of the time raw video is just noise.

      • Mr. SJOUTSIDETHEBUBBLE,

        I’m not sure which of us should be more terrified to discover that we agree. Frighteningly enough, I too took a video production class many years ago and it was amazing how one could take film clips from movies like the Exorcist and transform them from stark horror to almost comedy by simply changing the back ground music. I would like to put you in charge of doing the background music for all police related video clips.

        I find too that playing the theme from the original “Twilight Zone” series in the background whenever former IPA Cordell is talking about disparity of enforcement at SJPD also seems appropriate.

    • You wrote the above description very well. And yes, you are correct, and it sums up the totality of it completely. Pictures or video are not worth a thousand words.

    • Thanks for the night in the life of a cop description. But didn’t you forget the part about how Raj Jayadev and LaDoris Cordell co-wrote an editorial in the Murky News the next day decrying the selective enforcement and excessive force in the barrio, but never apologized to the officers when they were cleared and reinstated?

  7. How many of you have seen a handcuffed man, beaten by 5 cops, while he laid in the street. How many of you have seen how, an entire grand Jury gets disbanded. How many of you have seen how one politician, can control so many trough feeders. OK your On!

    • Mr. Village Black Smith,

      Your remarks prompt me to wonder what planet you might have been on when you wrote them. How many handcuffed men have we seen who were beaten by 5 cops, you ask. The answer, of course is, “Zero”. This is the same number of cops I know who would tolerate such behavior or stand idly by if it was occurring.

      You seem concerned that an entire Grand Jury was somehow disbanded? The normal term for a criminal Grand Jury is 3 months and for a civil Grand Jury it’s one fiscal year. I believe it might be possible for a grand juror to serve more than one consecutive term but since the job is about as exciting as standard jury duty, it seems unlikely that anyone would volunteer to serve longer than what is required. It would not then be nefarious for an entire Grand Jury to disband at the end of its obligatory term.

      You wonder how a single politician can control so many “trough feeders”. A dictator might be able to do so but since we have a representative form of government that limits the power of any single individual politician, if you find an answer to your question, perhaps you would share it with the rest of us.

      Your final sentence “OK your On!” anticipates mine but is incomplete. I would complete the sentence by saying: Obviously, “your on” some sort of psychoactive medication, in which case the dosage seems too low or “your on” marijuana or alcohol, in which case the amount seems too high.

  8. Blacksmith “you’re” showing you’re true colors. I used incorrect grammar just for you.

  9. Jack Slade Here! Where’s the $250,000.00 worth of the real head worn, non coverable cams???

    First of all that is the most fragile and easily circumvented unit in the U.S. Second it comes off in a struggle faster then a pair of pants with by hot couple in the back seat on Friday night. Third the deal calls for no public release of any video at any time till the end of time. When they shoot some poor sap who’s mentally ill and holding a sharp Crayola the video will have failed to be started or retained. You cant secure it and that’s the second part of the deal, the Thug Patrol takes, controls and keeps their video. SJPD has avoided even the slightest control over their lack of integrity employment.