25 Oct 2015

San Diego Police Department wants body cams on when guns come out after the second time in six months officers failed to turn on their body cameras during a deadly shooting

San Diego police officials said they are asking the company that makes the department’s cameras to see if technology exists that would automatically turn on an officer’s body-worn camera when they draw their gun from its holster.
Chief Shelley Zimmerman made the announcement at police headquarters Wednesday, a day after a fatal officer-involved shooting in downtown. It was the second time in six months that San Diego officers failed to turn on their body cameras during a deadly shooting.
The first happened in April, when a veteran officer shot a man in a dark lot behind a Midway Districtbookstore. The officer was criticized for not turning his body camera on before interacting with the man, who ended up not being armed. In response, the department revised its policy to require that officers turn on their cameras before traffic stops, field interviews, detentions, arrests and any other “enforcement related contacts” — as long as it’s safe to do so.
Unlike the Midway shooting, Tuesday’s incident didn’t unfold after officers received a phone call. Instead, two motorcycle officers spotted 39-year-old Lamontez Jones creating a disturbance and disrupting traffic near F Street and Fifth Avenue about 3:10 p.m., homicide Capt. David Nisleit said. Jones ran off as officers rode toward him, and they followed him about a block to F Street and Sixth Avenue.
They had just gotten off their motorcycles when the man pulled what appeared to be a large-caliber pistol from a backpack he was wearing, Nisleit said. The officers shot at him, and he fell to the ground.
They repeatedly demanded Lamontez drop the weapon, but he sat up and again pointed it at the officers. They fired a second time. Paramedics arrived and took him to a hospital, where he died.
Investigators later determined the gun Lamontez brandished was a steel replica.
Zimmerman said she didn’t believe the officers had the ability to turn on their body cameras safely. The department’s body camera policy specifies that officer and public safety is more important than activating the devices.
“When our officers are facing the barrel of a handgun or some other life-threatening situation, we expect their first consideration is protecting themselves and our citizens,” Zimmerman said. “Common sense tells you that is reasonable.”
The department is spending $4 million dollars to deploy a system of body cameras for all its patrol officers.
She said a technology that automatically turns on an officer’s camera in critical situations, such as the one that occurred Tuesday, would allow footage to be captured without putting an officer or the public at risk.
The American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties called on the department to specifically explain why the officers involved didn’t turn on their cameras and how the agency will prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future. The civil rights group also said, if warranted, the officers involved should be disciplined if their actions violated the department’s existing policy.
“Body cameras are a tool to improve community-police relations,” the organization said in a statement. “If policy is weak or not enforced, these tools will not be helpful and could be detrimental in this goal. Body cameras will become a tool only for surveillance and enforcement, rather than accountability and transparency as was promised.”

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