San Jose cops armed with cameras

October 30, 2009 7:21:15 PM PDT
San Jose is about to become the first police department in the nation to have cameras as part of their uniform. The pilot project gets underway next month and on Friday some of the officers got their first look at how the device will work.

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An example of how the cop cam worked was show to ABC7. A staged scenario of a mall shooting in San Jose shows the point of view coming from a cop cam designed by Taser International.

Officer Troy Sirmons is getting his first look at the device called AXON. It will soon be worn by 72 San Jose police officers.

"It's like taking the video out of the car and making it mobile, more mobile, one on one basis," says Officer Sirmons.

The camera is attached to a headset devise and worn near the ear. Taser International says the DVD quality data is secure.

"You can never delete a file, you never alter a file, file is never touched by human hands, so we have really worked to ensure court admissibility on this system," says Tom Smith, the CEO of Taser International.

When an officer is just walking around AXON is in buffering mode. One button click will capture the last 30 seconds of action and begin recording video and audio. The police chief wanted to be the first in the nation to put the technology to work.

"It's capturing the evidence at the scene. It's capturing the objective systems of a DUI suspect, it's capturing the crime in progress," says San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis.

The chief is certain officers will want their point of view recorded to show what is happening, even and especially during controversial uses of force such as the San Jose State student arrest last month captured on a cell phone. The chief says it will be department policy to record arrests.

"If we can show what we saw to make us do what we did, it's a little easier to explain it and go to court and say look at the video," says Officer James Hoag.

Critics though are raising questions about privacy, unforeseen technology glitches and throwing an expensive solution at a basic concern about police conduct.

"I'm really not sure that's the answer. The answer needs to be a change in attitude from police," says Richard Konda from the Asian Law Alliance.

The cameras will be deployed the middle of next month. In exchange for being part of the pilot project, the system is free for the first year.

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