Officers in San Jose, Calif., are about to get one more addition to their daily uniform: High Definiion cameras.
Starting in two weeks, 72 San Jose officers will be the first in the country to test the ear-mounted cameras. These video and audio recorders will provide more accountability for officers as well as the public.
If this one-year pilot goes well, all law enforcement officials in the United States should be equipped with the cameras.
The portable AXON cameras can record for more than 10 hours and can be programmed to gather just audio or just video, as well as be played back in the field. According to Taser International – the manufacturer of the cameras – the devices are waterproof and will not fall off in the event of a struggle.
“You can never delete a file, you never alter a file, file is never touched by human hands, so we have really worked to ensure court admissibility on this system,” said Tom Smith, the CEO of Taser International, to ABC-7 in San Francisco.
In the future, whenever an officer’s conduct comes into question, the cameras will offer a better perspective of the incidents.
The San Jose Police Department is still investigating the beating of 20-year-old San Jose State University student Phuong Ho. According to the Los Angeles Times, four officers are on administrative leave after the alleged beating.
The officers responded to a 911 call Sept. 3. Ho was allegedly fighting with his roommate. After the incident, a video was posted online showing two of the officers beating the unarmed man with a baton and using a Taser on him while Ho was screaming for them to stop.
The cell phone video was blurry. If the officers were equipped with the AXON cameras, the department would have a better idea of what actually happened that day.
Although he was not involved in the Ho beatings, officer James Hoag said to ABC-7, “If we can show what we saw to make us do what we did, it’s a little easier to explain it and go to court and say look at the video.”
A representative from the office of San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said in a Mercury News article that the camera recordings would fall under the same category as 911 calls. They can be requested by the general public, but they are often not released because of privacy issues.
Steven Clark, a defense attorney, said he is concerned about recording every police action.
“What about children that may be present during an arrest? What about other innocent people who are now going to be videotaped every time the police have an arrest?” he said.
Officers agree. Although they think it’s a great idea, concerns about personal calls and meetings being recorded have arisen.
This may be true, but since the cameras can be turned off, the department should allow officers to do so while on unpaid breaks, where they will be able to hold personal conversations without being recorded.
What has not yet been determined is if the officers will be required to keep the cameras on throughout their shift. It is unclear whether the cameras would record continually or could be turned off at the discretion of the officer, according to Mercury News.
One thing is certain: When an officer is on the job, they should have the camera turned on. It will capture most incidents and provide better security for everyone.
Xhenis Berberi is a senior majoring in political science and economics.