San Jose Testing Cop Cameras; Officers Enroll in 3-Month Trial

San Jose police began field testing body cameras Monday, the latest push for the technology after years of false starts.

Fifteen officers will spend the next three months piloting three types of cameras, two manufactured by Taser International and the other by Vievu. One will be worn on protective eyeglasses and the others on lapels. Each camera costs up to $600, so the city expects to spend somewhere around $1 million to equip each of the San Jose Police Department's 950 sworn officers.

San Jose sped up the timeline, which originally set field testing to begin in September. Under the revised schedule, the city will end field testing in October, review the results  and choose a device by next spring. The city expects to officially deploy the cameras by June 2016.

SJPD formed a body camera committee made up of San Jose residents, police staff and members of its union, the Police Officers Association, to drum up a draft policy that addresses the privacy of the officers and the public.

The policy—up for review here—prohibits officers from tampering with the device's evidence management software. Supervisors will have to ensure that video of officer-involved incidents are uploaded as soon as possible. Officers will rely on their own reasonable judgment in deciding when to switch the camera off, the policy states. If they delete a recording of an incident, they have to explain why.

The department states that all recordings will be considered evidence. That means that, like 9-1-1 calls, media and the public could request a recording by way of a formal Freedom of Information Act request. The department could, however, block those requests as videos could be considered part of the investigative record.

Before her retirement this month, Independent Police Auditor LaDoris Cordell—who has been pushing for police body cameras for years—criticized the policy, as drafted, for giving officers too much leeway and providing too little transparency. But the policy is expected to undergo more revisions, especially once the trial period ends and the resulting data is analyzed.

Throughout the trial, police will collect feedback from the public, starting with this survey. Police also urge the public to contact the body camera project management team for questions and concerns not addressed on the department's resource page.

Once the trial period ends, the city will look at the number of complaints against officers compared to similar periods in previous years, to see if the cameras serve as a deterrent.

National outrage over high-profile incidents in which police killed unarmed black men—Michael Brown in Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Jonathan Ferrell in South Carolina—pressured more police departments to adopt body cameras. In San Jose, data showing that police disproportionately stop African Americans and Latinos in traffic stops further quickened the effort.

Oakland equipped its police force with body cameras in 2013. The next year, the East Bay city reported a huge drop in use-of-force incidents—from a peak of 2,000 in 2009 to 611 in 2014. Citizen complaints fell from nearly 2,600 in 2012 to a little more than 1,000 last year.

The San Bernardino County town of Rialto said use-of-force incidents plummeted by 59 percent the year after deploying body cams in 2012. Residents' complaints saw a concurrent decline of 88 percent.

Though not a panacea, cop cams can be useful in eliminating false or exaggerated claims by both officers and civilians, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. But their effectiveness depends on good policy, the civil rights group noted.

"Perhaps most importantly, policies and technology must be designed to ensure that police cannot 'edit on the fly' — i.e., choose which encounters to record with limitless discretion," the ACLU wrote in a white paper on the subject. "If police are free to turn the cameras on and off as they please, the cameras' role in providing a check and balance against police power will shrink and they will no longer become a net benefit."

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Source: San Jose Police Department

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


  1. Yet again, the photo and the caption accompanying an article by Ms. Wadsworth do not depict what the text of her post states. The photo shows a cop, claimed to be SJPD, with a camera on his left ear. The caption reads: “A San Jose police officer demonstrates one of the cameras being field tested. (Photo via San Jose Police Department.” Ms Wadsworth’s post claims: “One will be worn on protective eyeglasses and the others on lapels.” The photo, allegedly of an SJPD officer, shows neither a lapel camera nor an eyeglass camera. Are there no editors @ SJI to ferret out these obvious discrepancies, which occur in at least 50% of Ms. Wadsworth’s weekly drivel? So, given the frequent discrepancies between the photos and Ms. Wadsworth’s posts, why should we believe the accuracy of the text of her articles?

    • Oh cmon JMO, give Jen a break, I think you’re looking too hard.

      It looks like a Taser Axon Flex.

      It’s also pictured in her infographic. Likely it’s using some accessory that allows it to be worn without the glasses. Yup, several flex mounts available.


      The $1m price tag seems excessive. Let me try and break it down here to be sure.

      Each camera costs up to $600, so the city expects to spend somewhere around $1 million to equip each of the San Jose Police Department’s 950 sworn officers.

      OK right away we have some fuzzy math here. They say, “Sworn” but they don’t break it down into patrol units. I thought there was only 700 or so patrol officers. Let’s go on with 950 though, maybe that’s a projection.

      950 X $600 = $570,000

      OK maybe that number isn’t too far off. Still leaves $430,000. I’d imagine training officers on proper procedures will take some time and money. Ongoing maintenance costs, server/video storage costs. I wonder if they’re going to lump this on the IT staff, or if they’ll bring in someone specialized to keep up the storage.

      OK. I’m convinced. Looks reasonable, and if it reduces the number of brutality complaints and settlements, we should see a ROI within a few years.

      SJPD and SJPOA, as a citizen who’s been watching this, I have to say I’m very happy about this program. Thank you.

      • Cousin Cortese: If this were the first time, I would give Jen a break; but she messes up the photo/story connection more often than not, and she also often picks a poster child for her bleeding heart stories who is totally antithetical to the sob story she puts out there. And neither Josh nor anyone else at SJI notices? Are there no longer editors who know how to edit? Or perhaps, no-one at SJI cares to get it spot on. As my son often quips—leave it to a journalist to almost get it right.
        On another note, I too am looking forward to this technology totally busting Cordell’s entire program of misinformation, which put the onus on the cops rather than the as*holes. Perhaps she left because she realized that with body camera technology much of her reason for existence as the IPA would be exposed as a complete fraud on the law abiding public.

        • Goosfraba, goosfraba… Please take in a few breaths before starting your rants. All is good! Tomorrow you and your posts will just be a mere speck in cyberspace nonsense. Relax, breathe, go outside without your IPad, phone or other transmitter. Don’ read or watch the media crap as it is all trivial nonsense witten basically by fools Don’t get caught up. In their media frenzy story’s about what flag is ok to fly or what sexual preference choice you should support according to the medias self proclaimed “experts”. Tune the nonsense out….

  2. — “Oakland equipped its police force with body cameras in 2013. The next year, the East Bay city reported a huge drop in use-of-force incidents—from a peak of 2,000 in 2009 to 611 in 2014. Citizen complaints fell from nearly 2,600 in 2012 to a little more than 1,000 last year.”

    An excellent example of priorities indicative of a failing society. With a violent crime rate third highest in the United States and 15 times that of San Jose (FBI: 2013), Oakland city leaders decided it was the cops that needed additional policing. I’d sooner ignore a shark warning than drive past an Oakland city limits sign.

    Putting cameras on SJ cops will not be without effect, but only a fool would expect it will do anything to stifle the politically-motivated anti-police movement here (a cash cow for politicized parasites). What it will do is provide lots of video of cops fighting and chasing resistant arrestees, who will undoubtedly be disproportionately representative of the Hispanic and African-American communities (as they’ve proved on the show “Cops,” they’re top performers on video). What it will also do is to further convince our police officers that what city leaders want is for them to avoid conflict with certain groups and let the public absorb the additional criminality.

    See no evil, hear no evil, just write up the tragedy, get a cup of coffee, and celebrate diversity.

    • The program says they can turn them on and off at will. So perhaps I see this going in a different direction than you. There are cops who absolutely play by the rules all the time, and get screwed by brutality complaints. These are the ones that will benefit the most.

      Then there’s the “other cops”. We all know the stereotype, the guys who accidentally smash your taillight walking up to your car. Likely we’ll never see them using them, but with cameras being so prevalent, the chance of a person being stopped having a car mounted camera (I have one) is pretty good. They’ll eventually be weeded out as “Their word” goes up against suspect video.

      • The critical problems with police body-cams.:

        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, but 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 cops are resistant to body cams. Body cams will create more problems than they solve but they are currently all the rage, a “miracle cure” for police misconduct, among people like judge Cordell, Al Sharpton and other race peddling agenda driven cop haters. Body cams are a waste of money but to oppose them is to be branded with a non-rebuttable presumption of race bigotry.

  3. Nice head mounted camera…. LOL I think that pic must be at least 7 years old… Its like when they use the photo of the blue and red light bar PD vehicle 1350 Things around here are about as balanced as the MN and CNN

  4. OMG really? The “busted tail light story” Ya I heard that story too one time at band camp… All cameras need to be turned on or off. The haters will have you believing thats a conspiracy to cover up all the evil of the men and women in blue. In reality there are serious legal issues on who is recorded and when and where. Not to mention when the officer needs to use the bathroom. SJ is finally getting everything it has asked for. Thank you judge Cordell. Proactive police work is a thing of the past. Good luck san jose….. At least the attorneys, politicians and contractors are all fat and happy.

    • I once had a Sheriff demand I break open the trunk of some tweaker I didn’t know, simply because he thought we were friends. Case of the wrong place at the wrong time. I probably told this story before, but here it goes again.

      I was hanging out at my friends house. He had a house guest, and I really didn’t know the guy, as I spent most of the time tinkering away on things in my friends full on machinist garage, and the guy had just arrived that day. My other friend was with me in the detached garage, while the friend that owned the house and the other guy were inside. This was on the corner of White and Gion Road for reference.

      Sheriff rolls up with the guys wife and kids. Apparently the guy had took all their things, kids clothes, etc and locked them in his trunk. The guy takes off running, and leaves the rest of us there standing. The Sheriff kept trying to get us to admit we knew the guy, but we honestly didn’t. Homeowner had run off too.

      So the Sheriff started looking right at me. “IF THIS TRUNK ISN’T OPEN IN THE NEXT 60 SECONDS, YOU’RE ALL GOING TO JAIL!!!” Being naive, and not knowing cops could issue empty threats during the course of an investigation, I panicked. I told him, “I’ll get it open!”

      Now, being a machinists workshop, we had many tools. I grabbed a huge crowbar, and a flat head screwdriver. I bent the trunk up enough to expose the lock mechanism, jammed the screwdriver in the square shaped hole, and prayed it would open.


      After that the Sheriff kept threatening us. “THIS NEVER HAPPENED!” I told him, “I’m not going to jail because “nothing happened” He just smiled and told me, “You get it” Dudes wife and kids collected their stuff from the trunk, and drove away into the night.

      My story isn’t the norm reliableinformer, like I said, there are many cops that do everything by the book, I’d say the majority of them. Yet it’s intellectually dishonest to say that there aren’t “Supertroopers” out there willing to bend the rules for justice.

      Was he right? Depends on which perspective you want to take. I’m sure to the mom and kids, he was awesome. To the deadbeat dad, he was happy I busted open his trunk because the cops didn’t take him to jail. For me? I had never broken into a car like that before, and while somewhat exhilarating, seeing that side of law enforcement forever scarred me with the knowledge guys like him exist. I would honestly be able to say, “I had never broken into a car” had it not been for that SCC Sheriff.

      Blame him, not I for making me learn the truth about his type.

  5. — “if it reduces the number of brutality complaints and settlements, we should see a ROI within a few years.” — ROBERT MICHAEL CORTESE

    After witnessing her long and divisive campaign to drum-up more complaints against the police, I doubt LaDoris Cordell’s body-camera program was intended to benefit this city’s taxpayers. Motives so pure and patriotic can never be assumed of the psychosocially deranged.

    For those inclined to view body-camera videos as sterile, objective forms of evidence, I ask:

    1) Name the last time network news ran a “controversial” video of the police arresting a white male?

    2) Can video be used to prove something that didn’t happen?

    If you can’t provide an answer to question #1 (and I can’t) then you have no choice but to conclude that either white males don’t resist arrest or the news media wants the public to see the use of force by police not as evidence of a necessity (and, occasionally, evidence of misconduct) but as proof of law enforcement’s racism toward blacks. Given the absurdity of the former, one is left with no choice but to assume that, in promoting the latter, the news media sees itself as serving a greater good. But what greater good? Viewer ratings (i.e. revenue), ad space (i.e. revenue), maintaining interest in a “story gone viral” (i.e. revenue), staying the course of the cultural destruction learned in college, or all of the above?

    As to question #2, the video in the Eric Garner arrest, which establishes beyond any doubt that he was still breathing and talking after being released from the ten to fifteen seconds long chokehold/headlock which helped officers overcome his resistance, has nevertheless been accepted by the public as evidence he was choked to death by police. Here in San Jose, when a video failed to prove anything more than that a Chinese student resisted arrest, it didn’t stop the news media from going to absurd lengths to try to “see” in the video the brutal evidence for which they so desperately hungered. The controversy raised was enough to get a cop fired (termination overturned) and win the student punk a nice chunk of taxpayer change. In a more recent case, the 90 minute video showing no one either entering or exiting the cell of Sandra Bland has had little to no effect on the suspicion “going viral” that she did not kill herself. Of course, that this suspicion has been fueled by the many news reports describing Bland as an upbeat and successful young woman is not surprising, nor is it surprising that few news outlets have revealed that Bland was a self-proclaimed depressive suffering from PTSD.

    Videos depicting the chaotic action of an arrest or shooting incident will more often than not produce that little slice of gray that is all that’s needed for exploitation. And, with the insertion of persuasive storytelling elements (see the gentle giant in Ferguson or the angelic schoolboy Trayvon Martin) the news media and Al Sharpton (or are they one in the same?) will be off and running, and truth will end up flattened beyond recognition.

    • > the news media wants the public to see the use of force by police not as evidence of a necessity (and, occasionally, evidence of misconduct) but as proof of law enforcement’s racism toward blacks.

      Just a suggestion.

      Complaints about “the media” are the equivalent of farts in a windstorm: they’re gone in a second. And no one remembers what your specific complaint was, or who you were complaining about.

      The media jerk who tells a big whopper today, will be on TV again tomorrow telling another whopper. There is no price to be paid.

      Steal a page out of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”.

      Rule 13: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.


      Don’t blame “the media”. Blame the head guy of the media company, BY NAME, and don’t let him off the hook.

      Nothing gets printed at the Mercury News or the New York Times without the permissive action of the publisher. When the Merc or the Times bash cops, or businessmen, or tea partiers, or gun owners, or Donald Trump, it only happens because the publisher MADE it happen.


    A Los Angeles police officer today was sentenced to 36 months in jail for assaulting a South L.A. woman in an incident that was caught on video by a police cruiser camera. The woman died of her injuries. She was hog tied when beaten. The Cop was white, the woman was black. Another Black & Decker Drill and Drywall knife murder washed away.

    A jury convicted Mary O’Callaghan, 50, last month after a prosecutor argued that the video showed the officer used unnecessary force during the 2012 arrest of Alesia Thomas.

    She killed the woman and got 36 months, the Judge suspended 20 months and with Good Behavior time taken off while she has been in jail, she will walk shortly with her pension.

  7. Regarding Nate Jaeger’s post:

    — not only was there was no video evidence of the woman being “beaten,” the punch to the throat supposedly captured on video neither appears to be a punch, nor appears to strike the throat, nor resulted in a reaction by the recipient consistent with a painful or damaging blow. Note: the coroner discovered no injuries on the woman’s body.

    — that the woman was black is enough, on its own, to convince imbeciles like Jaeger that this was a racially-motivated incident, but of far more importance than the woman’s skin color were the high levels of cocaine found in her system and the schizophrenic behavior in her medical history.

    — the officer found guilty of a crime was, in fact, simply trying to get a very large, unrelentingly combative drugged-up psychotic into a police car. I can only hope that other officers learn from this and, in future enforcement/rescue situations that pose an undue risk of reckless, politically-motivated prosecution, they simply discontinue the intervention (the way vehicle pursuits are now discontinued). This should be especially true in courtroom incidents in which deranged defendants put into jeopardy the safety of judges or attorneys. Let these smug cowards have a good, up-close look at the hands-off law enforcement they now preach as gospel — and from safety.

    Alesia Thomas, a drug-addicted, unfit mother, more than likely died due to a syndrome known as excited delirium. These cases, which often involve high levels of stimulants (cocaine), psychotic behavior, and a physically-exhaustive level resistance to arrest, are distinguishable by death following an arrest in which the type of force or restraint used was not sufficient to cause death.

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