A version of the perennially delayed body camera program for officers of the San Francisco Police Department is expected to be implemented beginning on August 1 according to the Mayor's Office. Some skeptics will have to wait until they see it, though, as we've heard roughly that before: While officer-worn body cameras have been in discussion with regard to police reform for at least the last five years, the public was told more than two years ago that such cameras were just a mere two weeks away. That wasn't so, but today brought news that the SFPD and Police Officers Assosciation had come to an agreement with City Hall surrounding the devices, a step toward their implementation. And, given the current political climate and the replacement of Chief Suhr with Acting Police Chief Toney Chaplin, this all seems more likely.
The Examiner reports that policy for the cameras, a major point of contention, will allow officers to review footage following critical incidents and only after making an initial statement about the incident. In general, according to the policy as drafted, when “preparing an incident report, preparing statements, conducting a follow-up investigation, or providing testimony," officers may review footage. They may not, however, review footage when they are under investigation or involved in a shooting, criminal matter, or death of a suspect in custody. Not, at least, until officers "summarize their actions" including "the actions that required use of force."
The agreement is “a positive step forward that there is agreement on the bulk of the policy” Public Defender Jeff Adachi tells the Ex. However, he expressed a hope that policy would expand to keep officers from viewing footage after all use of forces and potentially criminal instances.
“This is a game changer for the San Francisco Police Department and moves us firmly into 21st Century Policing,” said Acting SFPD Chief Toney Chaplin according to a press release. “We welcome this agreement with the San Francisco Police Officers Association and we look forward to the deployment of the cameras as soon as possible.”
Funds for the camera implementation and a program for footage review will come from a $20 million police reform package included in the mayor's proposed budget, occupying about $6.2 million of those funds.
“It is essential that we harness Body Worn Camera technology to build trust, increase accountability and preserve critical evidence in all types of cases,” Police Commission President Suzy Loftus said according to the statement issued. “This final policy will go before the Police Commission for approval and then we can get these cameras on SFPD officers as soon as possible.”