There’s a hostile crowd and police officers respond, with tough choices to make. Increasingly, leadership in police departments is recognizing that to defuse a situation like that calls for more than a demonstration of force, it will also call for a demonstration that officer’s choices are fair and measured.
“Anything we can do to increase accountability, and increased trust through us being transparent is something law-enforcement agencies should do,” Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said.
During a riot in Stockton a year ago, Jones had eight officers wearing body cameras in the field. Those cameras were rolling as police say protesters threw stones, and arrests were made.
The cameras were part of Stockton PD’s first tests of body cameras as part of an officers regular gear.
“No complaints. People were happy because it’s going to memorialize what actually happens,” said Sgt. Larry Lane, who sometimes wears the roughly three-by-three camera rig.
Jones says his goal is to make the cameras a part of every street cop’s gear. The videos they take can be useful as evidence and for training and after all, as every cop knows, videos are being made anyway.
“The officers have to assume they’re on video any given time. We see cell phone video, we see surveillance video, so part of our training is to always assume there are recordings to always be on your best behavior and be able to answer for what you’re doing,” Chief Jones said.
But before Jones can get those camera deployed on a wide-scale, he’ll have to make certain their are clear procedures for their use. He’ll have to get buy-in from the police officer’s union.
And perhaps the biggest hurdle, he’ll have to find the money to buy the cameras themselves. There’s no money in Stockton’s budget for them now, so Jones is looking for a federal grant, or other program to help purchase the equipment.