Back in 2013, we were told that SFPD officers would be getting body cameras as part of a pilot program funded by $25,000 federal grant. But in January of this year, we seemed no closer to achieving that goal than we were at the outset, and were told that funding was the main issue. But by now the nation has — to say the very least — given a lot more thought to the idea, largely in the wake of the deaths of black and brown men at the hands of police officers. Recent protests have centered on the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody. In San Francisco our own police department has been scandalized by racist text messages sent between officers, an overview of which you can read here.
But now Mayor Ed Lee is proposing that the city spend more than $3 million dollars to give every patrol officer a body-worn camera, tapping funds from his two-year budget, as the Chronicle reports. It could make us one of the largest police forces with body cameras in the country.
“San Francisco deserves the best in 21st Century policing and this comprehensive package of public safety reforms will help our police officers further strengthen their ties with the community,” Mayor Lee said in a press release. “It is that community trust that has helped San Francisco remain one of the safest big cities in the nation and this plan will ensure that our Police Department has the resources they need to continue their work to protect and serve. “With increased civilian oversight, more training, accelerated hiring, and the latest technology, our sworn officer can do their job with even greater transparency and accountability.”
The city would purchase around 1,600 cameras, with Police Chief Greg Suhr saying that San Francisco International Airport would provide additional funding for the 200 officers there.
“San Francisco is embracing, acknowledging and promoting 21st Century policing policies every day,” said Chief Suhr in the release. “More sworn officers, additional training, greater civilian oversight, and the use of body cameras on all our sworn officers will help protect the people of San Francisco and at the same time create a greater sense of community trust as police officers do the job they have sworn to do.”
Suzy Loftus, who is president of the San Francisco Police Commission, notes that the cameras would not be used without stringent policies in place. “Body cameras are a very important step to make sure that everybody sees each other and we have as much transparency as possible,” she said. “Having body cameras is going to be the new normal for police departments. It is the future, and we want to start as soon as possible.”
Oakland, Union City, and Campbell are three Bay Area cities where cameras are already employed.