Some skeptical about new OPD clip-on cameras

March 29, 2011 7:20:09 PM PDT
Oakland Police Department is moving forward with plans to buy 350 tiny video cameras for officers to wear on their uniforms.

Another group of police officers in Oakland got cameras to wear on their uniforms. The department insists those cameras will protect officers and the people they stop, but not everyone is convinced those electronic eyes capture everything they should.

It was a typical stop for Oakland Police. A man was wanted for robbery, but this time, it was all caught on camera -- from the arrest to the complaints that followed. Officer Huy Nguyen says having that tiny camera clipped to his uniform is definitely a good thing.

"In this day and age, yeah, so when it does come down to internal affairs, they can determine whether any misconduct was there," he said.

A $500,000 grant was paid for 90 cameras, which enough to cover just a fraction of the Oakland force. But in a department is still recovering from the Rider's case, where four officers were caught planting drugs on suspects, police said the cameras offer protection for officers and the people they contact.

"At the end of the day we hope it's going to add more transparency and it's going to hopefully drive down city complaints," OPD Capt. Ed Tracey said.

The city's Police Review Board received 96 complaints against the department in 2009 and 74 percent were unfounded or exonerated. Last year, there were 81 complaints and it's not yet known how many were valid.

Those numbers represent just 10 percent of all the complaints filed against OPD. After the Rider's case, internal affairs now investigates every single complaint against the department -- even those that appear baseless from the start.

One of the new cameras mounted inside a police cruiser caught a stolen car chase through the Fruitvale District. But when the suspect crashes and the officer chases, the camera stayed in the car and what happens next is never shown. That concerns critics like attorney John Burris.

"That's where the improper contact occurs. If you don't record that particular event, then the video camera has marginal relevance," he said.

According to police, most of the time the system works, but they admit, it's not foolproof.

Load Comments