The San Francisco Police Commission voted yesterday on a policy regulating when officers will be able to review footage from body cameras before writing incident reports. In a contentious vote, the commission decided that police officers will be able to review the footage, even in cases of officer-involved shootings (approval from the Police Chief is required in these incidences, however), before they file incident reports.
Starting next year, all SFPD officers will be issued body cameras, after some lengthy delays and discussions.
Police officers argued that viewing the footage before filing reports just makes sense, as it means using all the evidence at hand to file an accurate report. Others present at the meeting, including Public Defender Jeff Adachi, argued that being able to view video of an event before filing a report might encourage an officer to retroactively change the justification for their actions, reports Mission Local.
Tessa D’Arcangelew, an organizer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, explained to the San Francisco Chronicle her organization's opposition to the policy adopted today.
"Body cameras should ensure accountability and not abuse," says D'Arcangelew, "and we believe strongly that allowing officers to review footage before making a statement in critical incidents gives the officer an unfair advantage that witnesses and victims don’t have.”
One of the commissioners, Petra DeJesus, agreed with D'Arcangelew.
“The best practice right now is to isolate the officer and take his statement immediately,” DeJesus told the Chronicle. “It’s not what the officer knew in hindsight, it’s what the officer knew at the time the force was used."
The policy stills needs to be reviewed by the police Department of Human Resources and the San Francisco Police Officers Association, notes Mission Local, before it is sent back to the commission for final approval.