SAN JOSE (KRON) — The San Jose Police Department has begun equipping some of its officers with body-worn cameras on Wednesday.
Dozens of officers received training on how to use the new cameras, which are now put to use. Twenty officers were issued the cameras.
KRON got an up-close look at the cameras, and he also spoke with the chief of police who said the cameras will benefit the public and the department.
Chief Eddie Garcia called the rollout of the cameras a “historical moment.”
The officers were trained to use a Taser Axon Body 2 camera, one of three models tested by the department during a three-month period last year.
“The training aspect is truly the tip of the iceberg,” police Chief Eddie Garcia said.
The chief compared the deployment of body-worn cameras to when officers were first introduced to handheld radios and some likely forgot to turn them on.
“We really want to impress upon the officers that when they’re doing enforcement actions that it’s going to become almost muscle memory,” Garcia said.
Police Lt. Elle Washburn, commander of the department’s body-worn camera administrative unit, said she has been involved with bringing with devices to the officers since 2013.
Washburn was looking forward to the deployment of the cameras and developing evidence through the devices.
The department has a “very specific” policy that details when officers should have the camera on or off, but at times there has to be some discretion for officers to do their job without a “bright-line rule,” Washburn said.
The officers won’t be able to alter or delete any portions of the videos, which they can use to compile reports, according to Washburn.
If an officer is involved in an incident such as a shooting or in-custody death, they can’t view the footage without first providing a statement, Washburn said.
The department is continuing to discuss how it should approach any requests to publicly release videos from the cameras with the San Jose City Attorney’s Office and Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, Washburn said.
During a portion of the training session Wednesday afternoon at the police Southern Substation, the officers were each given an Axon Body camera and had an opportunity to record a video.
A representative from Taser International Inc., the manufacturer of the cameras, explained the features of the Axon Body 2 including the ability for officers to mark any notable portions of the footage by simply pushing a button.
The cameras come with “industrial-strength magnets” that allows officers to place the camera on their chest and attach to a mount underneath the uniform and against their vest, according to the Taser representative.
The department will be equipping all of its officers with the cameras in waves beginning with the patrol division, followed by the special operations division, gang unit, investigators, reserve unit and command staff, police Officer Albert Morales said.
The department aims to train about 20 to 30 officers each day and expect to finish in the next few months, Morales said.
The San Jose City Council last month approved a resolution to purchase a system that includes 963 cameras from Taser International Inc., based in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The city agreed to a contract with the company for the system estimated to cost more than $4 million for a five-year term ending in June 2021.
Taser’s proposal met city criteria for the system including unlimited storage capacity, lightweight cameras, and a cloud-based management software, according to a May 20 memo by police Chief Eddie Garcia and city Finance Director Julia Cooper.
The department received positive feedback on the company’s cameras when conferring with San Diego police and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police in North Carolina, according to the memo.
The wireless camera has a battery that lasts for more than 12 hours, records up to 70 hours of content and allows the user to tag important parts in the footage, according to the company’s website.
Under department policy, officers cannot take out the hardware or software from the cameras and are responsible for making sure the device is completely charged and properly functioning before their shift.
Any videos for incidents involving officers such as shootings or in-custody deaths must immediately be downloaded into the department’s storage system, according to the policy.
It is recommended that officers activate the cameras during situations that involve force, confrontations, assaults or enforcement, the policy states.
Officers should turn off the cameras during private conversations such as with their spouse or attorney, according to the policy.
Other situations where officers ought to turn off the cameras include encounters with a possible witness seeking anonymity, tactical briefings and strip searches, the policy states.
More on the cameras: http://www.sjpd.org/InsideSJPD/BodyCameras/BWC_Policy.html