San Jose Police Expect to Deploy Body Cameras This Summer

After three years of consideration, San Jose will likely join other big-city police departments by equipping officers with body-worn cameras this summer.

The City Council on Tuesday will vote on a five-year, $5 million contract with Taser International to buy 963 cameras, software and training.

The deal would help the San Jose Police Department catch up with other cities, which have deployed cameras in response to growing public demand for police accountability and oversight.

“There is a nationwide movement toward the use of body worn cameras in the law enforcement industry,” police Chief Eddie Garcia wrote in a memo to the council. “Body worn cameras can enhance accountability and increase transparency between officers and the public they serve.”

The idea of using police body cameras has finally reached a near universal consensus. Law enforcement agencies support it because having a video record could protect officers from false allegations of misconduct. The American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy-conscious civil rights groups endorse the idea because it could keep police on their best behavior and make for more accurate record keeping.

Body cameras could have been especially helpful last week, when protests outside of a Donald Trump rally turned violent. Only four people were arrested at the time, and the department has asked citizens to provide digital evidence of any crimes being committed.

Surveys indicate that the vast majority (88 percent) of Americans want police to wear body cameras. The figure remains roughly the same for both Republicans and Democrats.

High-profile cases of police killing unarmed civilians in Baltimore, New York and Ferguson, Missouri, heightened urgency around the issue. In 2014, months after the police shot to death Michael Brown in Ferguson, the White House pledged $75 million dollars to help more police agencies adopt the technology.

San Jose has had a few false starts over the years, but began studying the idea in 2013 and in earnest after the White House called for the technology as a way to restore public trust.

Studies have shown that in cities where police already wear cameras, use-of-force complaints as well as legal costs to defend brutality cases have fallen, in some cases precipitously.

Of course, it’s not enough to just strap the cameras on and expect them to quell police violence and mistrust. San Jose and a host of other cities have grappled with questions about how to use these new tools, including when to hit the “record” button and who has control over the footage once it’s created.

San Jose’s body camera policy was unveiled earlier this year. Here’s a link to the guidelines, which require police to record every incident that requires force.

It gets tricky, however, when it comes to who can see the recordings. Just because an incident is caught on video, it doesn’t mean the public has access to that footage. While not every incident should end up on YouTube, San Jose’s policy of keeping the footage “for law enforcement use only” and to anyone else on “a right to know and need to know basis” presents a conflict between public disclosure and citizens’ privacy.

The contract with Taser International, one of the largest manufacturers of stun guns, comes after months of field tests in which officers compared cameras from eight brands. Taser scored highest overall, according to police.

Officers testing the Taser cameras found them lightweight and easy to use with SJPD’s existing computer-aided dispatch software.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for June 7, 2016:

  • San Jose Jazz plans to bring a musical art installation to Plaza de Cesar Chavez. The $50,000 project led by artist collective Tous le Jours consists of a series of swings that emit various musical notes depending on the height a person reaches on the swings. It’s also a game of cooperation. When people swing together, they can play a complete musical score.
  • The city-owned Los Lagos Golf Course ran up a $385,000 operating loss last year. Parks officials will start exploring the idea of changing the property from a golf course to something more popular so it could stop being such a money suck.
  • When Walter Katz assumed the role of Independent Police Auditor at the start of this year, the city rushed the physical relocation of his office. The new place on North Third Street lacks adequate safety measures for an office that often deals with anxious, agitated and criminal clientele. The city will consider spending $32,000 to beef up security at the new location.
  • A memorial for police officers killed in the line of duty will be placed outside of SJPD headquarters. There had been discussions about installing the “End of Watch” monument in a more visible setting. But the committee managing the project decided that police are the primary stakeholders here, and having the monument right outside the agency will stand as a daily reminder to officers of the value of their work.

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 the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


    • I’ve watched many many hours of uploaded videos and I did not see any Trump supporters throwing eggs and burning the American Flag. I’m not even a Trump supporter but let’s be real here.

        • Right, the protesters were burning the American flag and came prepared with eggs, rocks, etc. The assaults did not come from the Trump supporters. Again, let me reiterate…I am not a Trump supporter…just stating the truth.

          • Julie, I see I am causing you some aggravation, so please permit me to prove my statement.

            First let me state that since the Mayor, the Chief, and the President of the United States have cast blame in Trump for this riot, the only logic deduction is that they are Trump Supporters.

            Because which makes more sense (1) these were Trump Supporters pretending to be protesters which both were complicit and planned to use the opportunity to make SJ Latinos look bad. Perhaps get some click bait pics and maybe some votes in OH, PA in the meantime. As the Mayor and the Chief would also have to be complicit to stand down as these Trump Supporters took a beat down. This would be clearly Trump’s fault and the Mayor and the Chief of Police, with the benefit of prior knowledge, would be correct in assigning blame. Perhaps they gave the President a courtesy call over the weekend.

            Or (2) These were actual disaffected SJ residents, with the full comprehension of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, understanding of the Democratic Paradox, fully versed in the Bill of Rights, with clear purpose of their cause. That is a protestor. It simply does not make sense, given the full agency they enjoyed, that these protesters would violently attack these attendees of a Republican Party Presidential Rally and the Mayor, Chief of Police, and the President say someone other than they were responsible. Because if they are not responsible for their actions and have no agency, they are not protestors, they are rioters that are triggered by uncomfortable ideas and different skin who enjoy cornering, verbally abusing, and violently attacking women in overwhelming numbers with the tacit approve of your Mayor, Chief of Police, and President.

            Can you see how I can only conclude they were Trump Supporters given my two choices?

          • Got it…thanks for the clarification. My tired old brain doesn’t always pick up sarcasm. At least we can find comfort that any illegal immigrants that may have been unjustly arrested, will not get deported because San Jose is a sanctuary city. How am I doing?

          • Julie, I would say to you that the Constitution clearly states the power of naturalization resides in the various cities within the established borders of the United States. As such, San Jose, being a sanctuary city with no laws regarding naturalization, any non-citizen within San Jose’s jurisdiction can not be, by definition, illegal. Furthermore, by referring to any non-citizen as illegal, any citizen opens themselves up to a potential defamation suit, with the penalty to your reputation being tenfold to the tax on your wealth.

            Additionally, any activity by non-citizens in San Jose, as they are not encumbered with the responsibilities of citizenry, are not subject to its various laws. Therefore, non-citizens can perpetrate any beat down deemed necessary without recrimination from law enforcement. It would be, in fact, harassment if the police did act to question or detain any such non-citizen and would open up taxpayers to significant civil liabilities. Thus, the police would be better off acquiring training for these handy cameras than pursue any of these protestors.

            This reality is more comforting than the one we currently enjoy and the results are the same.

  1. This is great news for our community. While these cameras only address a part of the issues, it’s a great step forward.

    (And for the numbskull blasting the Trump protesters… why so willfully blind and deaf?)

    • Capitan Sal! I knew you’d reach out. Okay, the Deny’s idea was bad, but I think we can hit up some old folks home, like a 55+ place. You know they aren’t from the community and they are huge Trump supporters. Foxnews watchers always stirring things up, they SHOULD get a taste of protest. Them old Drumpfers probably thought Officer Wilson was innocent. Well you know Holden took it all the way to the Supreme Court and showed them! What a waste, though, cause if they had these camera’s in Ferguson, Holden wouldn’t have had to waste his time. Officer Wilson would have probably confessed right then and there! I guess that whole riot was just a huge waste of the media’s time.

      Anyway, I can bring a dozen!

  2. First, they bought the same cameras 5 years ago, never used them,2.They will waste a year training and claiming they don’t work right. Third, the public will never get to see a single video except one that proves innocence of the SJPD and all others will go to the Supreme Court. SJPD is BS ing you. Ask them for a copy of their policy “Not Available” etc etc

    • I respectfully disagree. With San Jose’s budget surplus, this is a wise investment. It will really show how lawful and cooperative SJ residents are and how completely unambiguous the circumstances are when the Police deal with disturbances. Also, it will really help recruitment with all the second by second feedback the politicians and public can offer officers, because the camera conveys so much information it is just like being there. However, I am not sure we need more police as the police/resident ratios are solid and consistent with other cities of our size. Definitely this $5M is better spent on cameras than hiring more police.

      • SJCitizen,

        You’re either insane and I urge you to seek help, or you are employing the strangest brand of sarcasm I’ve ever come across. Either way, I would recommend seeking out, at the very least, some sort of counseling for whatever you’re grappling with.

        • Mr Rodgers, thank you for the note and I am so honored and grateful you are a fan of my work. Stay strong!

  3. SJ Citizen (real citizens should be disgusted with your handle) do you intentionally gravitate toward the polar opposite of the truth? Have you been stricken with the Liberal sickness that infects our region. Or have you just been reading Hillary transcripts? Perhaps you are employed by BANG? Your funniest rant is regarding your blabber about police staffing ratios. Perhaps you should trade foil hats with Nate Jager. I have enjoyed your bias nonsensical rants as they provide a moment of light hearted laughter that I have been missing these days. Thank you

  4. If the council will just hold off another two or three years on purchasing the cameras they’ll not only save the cost of a couple of hundred cameras but avoid the embarrassment of having 40% of the video obtained consist of footage from rehab clinics, disability doctors, and workers comp attorneys.

  5. Police body cams = stupid. Here’s why.The critical problems with police body-cams are:

    A camera doesn’t follow the eyes or see as an officer sees. A body camera is not an eye-tracker and it photographs a broad scene but can’t document where within that scene an officer was looking at any given instant. An officer may not see action within the camera frame that appears to be occurring “right before (his) eyes.”

    A body camera can’t acknowledge the physiological and psychological phenomena known as “tunnel vision”, often experienced under high stress. As a survival mechanism, the brain screens out of the perceptual field, information not considered vital for survival at that moment. Justification for a use of force comes from what an officer reasonably perceived, not necessarily from what a camera saw. Film captures everything and will not then convey the same sense of threat that the officer experienced using only that information his brain allowed him to process at the instant of violence.

    The camera does not record tactile cues, and “resistive tension” is critical to officers in deciding to use force. It may prompt them to suddenly apply force as a preemptive measure, when a suspect suddenly, subtly tightens up.On camera it may look like the officer made an unprovoked attack.

    The camera can’t record the training and experience an officer brings to an encounter. Suspect behavior that may appear innocuous on film to someone unaccustomed to violence can convey the risk of mortal danger to a streetwise officer. An assaultive subject who brings his hands up may look like he’s surrendering, but is often instead assuming a combative stance, signaling his preparation for violence. The camera just captures the action, not the interpretation.

    A camera can see better in poor light than can an officer. The high-tech imaging of body cameras allows them to see and record with precision, information not possibly available to an officer at the time the incident is occurring. An officer’s assessment of the potential threat and his reaction may then be based more on experience, context, movement and a suspect’s posturing than on visual clarity. If an officer is expected to have seen as clearly as the camera did, his reaction might seem inappropriate.

    Camera angles, recording speed, sound or lack of sound, all are recorded differently on antiseptic film than these same factors are processed by an officer during a fast breaking, no-rules, violent event. Cameras also only record in 2 dimensions and depth perception, not apparent on film, is often a critical factor in officer decision making in violent situations.

    These are just a few of dozens of reasons that race peddling cop-haters, like IPA Walter Katz, Al Sharpton and LaDoris Cordell can’t possibly understand. Body cams will create more problems than they solve but they are currently all the rage, a “miracle cure” for police misconduct, Body cams are a waste of money but to oppose them is to be branded with a non-rebuttable presumption of race bigotry.

    • > Body cams will create more problems than they solve but they are currently all the rage, a “miracle cure” for police misconduct,


      Police body cams will quickly go out of fashion the first time a prominent “progressive” politician is busted for drunk driving and is shown being dragged out of his wrecked taxpayer paid-for official vehicle and given a sobriety test while cursing and slurring ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation groups.

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