Oakdale Police officials anticipate a program for officers to wear body cameras to be in effect within three to four months, according to Interim Police Chief Mike Harden. On Monday, June 6, the city council unanimously approved the purchase of the $43,000 program.
When implemented, on-duty police officers, and at times detectives in the field, will be equipped with shoulder mounted or chest-high mounted cameras.
During the presentation, Police Lieutenant Keri Redd said there are many benefits to officer-worn cameras, such as improved digital evidence gathering; reduced time in court; increased successful prosecutions; streamlined reporting; and use as a training tool. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that cameras avail more efficient clearance of public complaints, while reducing liability claims and strengthening law enforcement community relations through greater transparency.
“It has a great training component to it also,” said Chief Harden after the meeting. “It gives officers a chance to take a step back and review.”
The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s office has requested all agencies in the county to implement the same brand/model of body cameras for ease and simplicity for prosecution and sharing of evidentiary data to their agency, making it easier for video requirements at the courthouse for trial purposes.
The DA’s recommendation is from TASER International with a cloud-based storage and sharing that provides the software needed to upload the videos without having to save to a disc.
Redd said the cost of the program would be $43,000 for three years to cover all required aspects including the equipment, warranties, service, and storage. The money from the program will come from law enforcement grant money obtained earlier this year.
Other benefits from the TASER cameras allow automatic synchronizing with the department’s computer-aided dispatch so personnel don’t have to hunt for footage by date and time.
Redd said the department is going with the shoulder mounted models as their standard issue due to the fact that the chest model could be blocked by gun drawing or driving.
The Oakdale department does not have dash-mounted cameras in patrol cars.
“When my officers are driving ‘Code-3,’ I want to see what they’re seeing from the windshield rather than the steering wheel,” Redd said when making her presentation.
Lt. Redd said one of the advantages with the package the department is purchasing is an automatic activation feature that would turn on when the car’s light bar or rifle lock release was activated. In the field it would occur when a TASER was deployed. Other incidents like gun drawing and high speed driving are in development by the company.
“We want to make sure we’re equipped and on-board with it for implementation when those developments are released in the future,” Lt. Redd said.
She noted that in addition to a policy on operation, there would be one on storage and purge times for videos gathered.
“These (purges) would be for general contacts,” Lt. Redd said. “Things such as an officer giving directions, inquiries, calls that don’t escalate would fall into that. Hot calls that would go to trial or similar incidents obviously would be kept longer.”
Redd also pointed to the many evidentiary benefits of the cameras, such as domestic violence cases to show the accuracy of the scene and the state the victim was in when police arrived.
Body cameras have been part of a national debate as police officers across the country have come under scrutiny after high-profile incidents involving the use of deadly force.
Officers contacted seemed to be in favor of wearing the cameras.
“It will be good for the officers and lead to the exoneration of frivolous complaints,” Officer Matt Gardette said, adding that the only burden was adding another apparatus to his duty gear. “I think once I start wearing it, there’ll be acceptance as just another piece of equipment to do the job.”
Officer Rockford Anderson, who works traffic and has numerous citizen contacts throughout his day, was very much in support of the program.
“I love the idea,” Anderson said. “It’s going to give our story (of events) more teeth in a time and age where the trust in law enforcement is questioned.”
Anderson said the cameras would allow for more transparency and ease any tensions between the public and police when a critical incident may occur.