Yesterday, officers from the San Francisco Police Department’s Ingleside Station — the precinct that covers Bernal Heights — were issued wearable body-cameras for the first time. The hope is that body cameras will help improve police accountability by providing additional information about what happens during interactions between SFPD officers and members of the public.
Vivian Ho from the San Francisco Chronicle was at Ingleside Station as the body cameras were distributed. She reports:
On Thursday, instructors from Taser International, the company that produces the Axon cameras, passed out the small, black squares that will be clipped on the chests of officers, sergeants and lieutenants. The officers eyed them warily.
Officer Kyle Wren, one of about 60 officers and sergeants who volunteered to receive the device early and assist in training, said initial hesitation is normal.
“My first week having it, you’re just aware you’re being recorded all the time,” he said. “I’ve already been used to being recorded on cell phones, but it’s on the whole time and you’re just a little bit self-conscious at first. I would say after a week on patrol, using it all the time, I got very used to it.”
Officers must double-tap the device to activate it, but like a DVR it’s always recording, so it can catch the 30 seconds before the officer turns it on, only without audio.
The camera policy, passed by the Police Commission in June, set rules for when officers must activate their devices — essentially for all public interactions except for strip searches and those involving sexual assault and child-abuse victims and confidential informants.
“The wave of the future is already here,” said Ingleside Station Capt. Joseph McFadden. “Most of the video we get is from private citizens’ cameras, but now you have the officers with body cameras on and that’s going to be able to tell the real story about exactly what went on and what the officers’ point of view was.”
IMAGE: Axon body camera photo illustration by Bernalwood