City Council considers police body cameras

City Council considers police body cameras

Michele Ellson

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The City Council is set to consider a contract to purchase body cameras for Alameda police and access to a system that will store all the video they record.

Police Chief Paul J. Rolleri will ask the council Tuesday to spend $424,752.61 for 80 AXON Flex cameras made by Taser International and for use of the company’s secure servers for storage and management. The contract would be in effect for five years.

In a report to the council, Rolleri said officers who tested the cameras found they could help resolve criminal cases without a trial and also, make subjects more compliant and reduce complaints against officers. Studies of departments that use the cameras showed a reduction of use of force incidents, complaints against officers, lawsuits and court overtime costs, he wrote.

The police department plans to pay for the cameras using state grant money and unspent funds from its current-year budget.

A rash of officer-involved shootings in cities across the country has prompted calls for officers to begin wearing the cameras to record interactions with police, and on May 1, the federal government announced a grant program that could help a handful of departments cover some of their cost.

The International Association of Police Chiefs has sanctioned officers’ use of the cameras; a recent study published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology based on a randomized trial found that officers using the cameras documented half the number of force incidents as those who didn’t and had only a tenth of the number of personnel complaints.

But even proponents note that the cameras could raise concerns about privacy and about how the information they capture will be share with the public.

Rolleri said the department is drafting a policy that will address this and other issues.

Alameda police have used digital audio recorders since 2006, and the department has been testing different digital cameras since 2012. In his report, Rolleri said the cameras the department wants to buy are smaller than other models officers tested, and can be worn on an officer’s head to offer video from his or her point of view. The company’s storage website shows a camera attached to the side of a pair of glasses.

The cameras are continually recording and will capture 30 seconds of video before an officer turns them on, the staff report to council says. The video is uploaded directly to Taser’s cloud-based storage system, its website says.

If approved, the cameras, which are one of several tools the department wants to implement to reduce and better track its use of force in the field, could be in use by the end of the summer, Rolleri said.

The council meeting begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Avenue, and will be broadcast live on Comcast cable channel 15, AT&T cable channel 99 and on the city’s website.


Submitted by MJ (not verified) on Tue, Jun 2, 2015

Thanks for the update, Michele. Has there really been "a rash of officer-involved shootings?" It's certainly made the news more. For all I know, there are fewer officer-involved shootings.

Submitted by David (not verified) on Tue, Jun 2, 2015

There is no central tracking of officer-involved shootings/killings across the country. Without that, indeed, it's difficult to know if the number is up or down or if it's just reporting that's up or down.

Certainly it's the video recording of the shootings and pre and post events that is helping drive news coverage.

Submitted by Fred (not verified) on Tue, Jun 2, 2015

Why would the cameras not be on all the time? Without that capability, or more directly stated, preventing officers from turning them off, we will never get the entire picture.

I know cops hate having them on all the time, but that shouldn't be optional.

Submitted by MJ (not verified) on Wed, Jun 3, 2015

David, there are in fact statistics on arrest-related deaths kept by the Bureaus of Justice Statistics.. by type, demographic, agency, etc.

Here are some highlights:

A total of 4,813 deaths were reported to the Arrest-Related Deaths program from January 2003 through December 2009 (over a 7 year period).

Of reported arrest-related deaths, 61% (2,931) were classified as homicides by law enforcement personnel, 11% (541) were suicides, 11% (525) were due to intoxication, 6% (272) were accidental injuries, and 5% (244) were attributed to natural causes.

State and local law enforcement agencies employing 100 or more full-time sworn personnel accounted for 75% of the 4,813 arrest-related deaths reported during 2003-2009.

Among reported arrest-related deaths, 42% of persons were white, 32% were black, and 20% were Hispanic.

According to Google, 126 officers were killed in the line of duty in 2014, up 24% from 2013.

Although the data doesn't include most recent years or weapon type, it does appear fairly steady across previous years.

This leads me to believe that it's pretty hard to change such big numbers involving millions of arrests one way or the other.

So, what can we say for sure? Criminals are more likely to have dangerous interactions with cops and a large number of both groups will wind up dead.

Finally, if you look at where that gun violence occurs, it's in big cities with strict gun control and a decreased ability for the average citizen to defend themselves: