Following years of delay, we learn today via the Examiner that some SFPD officers are finally (finally!) being equipped with body-worn cameras. The cameras are popular both among advocates who hope they will bring increased accountability to a police force that has in the recent past shot and killed several people in questionable circumstances, and among the police force — acting SFPD Chief Toney Chaplin vocally supported their deployment earlier this summer.
Of the planned 1,800 cameras that officials plan to put to use, 70 are already out in the field in an early test of the technology. Officers equipped with the first batch will learn how to best use the cameras and will later train the remaining members of the force in best practices. Cameras are slated to be fully deployed at the Bayview and Ingleside Stations first, with other stations to follow.
“It’s business as usual,” San Francisco police Sergeant John Conway, equipped with one of the cameras, told the paper. “We just have one more tool.”
That it took so long to get them deployed — ex-Police Chief Greg Suhr began talking about this program five years ago — frustrated many, but now that they're here we can expect the cameras to play a vital role in the investigation of any future police shootings.
One potential controversy, regarding when officers would get a chance to review the footage, was mostly skirted after it was decided that following police shootings officers must first give a brief statement before they are allowed to watch any footage. In almost every other situation, however, officers can review the footage before giving statements.
“This is a game changer for the San Francisco Police Department and moves us firmly into 21st Century Policing,” acting SFPD Chief Toney Chaplin said in a press release when the body-cam policy was finalized. “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.”
While that day has finally come, only time will tell what impact the cameras truly have — on both the police and the citizenry.