Oakland PD officers to test wearable cameras

May 27, 2010 7:02:07 PM PDT
The Oakland Police Department is getting ready to put video cameras on patrol officers. About 20 video units will be tested over the summer, and if all goes well, the entire patrol division will get them.

A police officer can clip the wearable video camera on his shirt and flip open the lens to start recording.

Assistant Chief Howard Jordan says the main objective is to improve officer safety, and there are other benefits.

"If there's a question about whether or not an officer did something inappropriate and we have to document it, it also gives us a chance to look at training and how our policies are being implemented," he said.

Cameras mounted on police cars have become standard equipment for many departments. But Jordan says the department has not had much success with in-car cameras and the wearable cameras would replace them.

The test will begin as soon as a policy for their use is written.

Oakland attorney John Burris has a long track record of suing the Oakland police. The city paid out millions in the rider's brutality case, and he thinks the cameras are a good idea.

"A camera tells a lot. It may not tell everything, it certainly doesn't tell everything before and necessarily afterwards. But it tells a lot," he said.

"We have a lot of people that make claims against officers. We are going to be able to decide what happens and there is no substitute for looking at a video to see what really happened," Jordan said.

The San Jose Police Department has some officers wearing a camera made by Taser International. Oakland's test camera is made by Seattle-based VieVu. It's made by police officers for police officers.

The video and audio files are stored in an internal memory card that cannot be removed from the unit. The files can only be downloaded from a USB port with a specialized cable to a secure server.

The cameras are $900 each and there are about 300 patrol officers. If the test is successful, the next question will be if the department can afford them.


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