Officers in Stockton to Test Out New Body Cameras

STOCKTON -- The Stockton Police Department will soon begin testing new body cameras with a pre-event recording feature that will capture video of what happened 30 seconds before an officer hits the record button.

The idea is that the new technology will help bring clarity to controversial police interactions like officer involved shootings, where sometimes the most critical moments are not captured on camera.

"The human body does certain things under stress, it might be to not turn on that camera...but we want the muscle memory to where the officer knows to do this, it's activated, it's recording," Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said.

Jones told FOX40 select officers will start testing the new cameras in a week. He said more of the new cameras would be rolled out department wide within about six months.

"It's technically recording all of that time," Jones said.

Jones said the video is recorded on a server constantly. If the officer does not flip on his camera, the video writes over its self every 30 seconds. When the officer does activate the camera, footage is recorded from 30 seconds before that moment.

But some people say they think police body cameras should be rolling on interactions the moment they begin, not only when they escalate.

"So as you get out of the car to address anyone, it should be rolling, not 20 minutes later, not even a minute later," Dionne Smith said.

Smith is a family friend of Colby Friday, the 30-year-old fatally shot by a Stockton cop back on August 16. Police said they were in the area for an unrelated domestic dispute call when they approached Friday, and that he ran away. They say the officer chased Friday and ordered him not to reach for a gun he dropped, but he did not comply, they say the officer fired his gun.

"I don't believe that Colby was a threat to him. He was in fear for his life. He was running away," Smith said.

Smith said despite the new technology evolving with body worn cameras, the biggest battle many families face is gaining access to the footage.

The officer who shot Friday was wearing a body camera. However, Chief Jones said he turned it on too late.

"So it was activated, but it was activated immediately after the shooting," Jones said.

Jones said the officer was disciplined for turning on the body camera after the shooting, since it is the departments policy to turn it on before any interaction with the public. However, Jones said he could not reveal what exactly that discipline was.

Stockton police said the officer had since been put back on patrol.

The video recorded after the shooting will not be released until the investigation is complete.

"Come on. You gonna tell us a month later he didn't have it on? Give us a break. We want some justice, [we're] gonna get some justice," Smith said.