Very soon traffic stops, and every other public interaction the community has with the police, could be videotaped.
Cameras small enough to fit into shirt pockets, attach to caps and be combined with sunglasses are already on the market, and police departments across the country are adopting them to better understand what happens in the field.
The San Antonio Police Department launched a pilot program to wire up members of the downtown bike and foot units along with select patrol units across the city with small, wearable video cameras. It began this month, and ,according to SAPD, is set to run 6 months wherein it will be evaluated for a potential wider rollout.
The cameras have become a part of other community's police forces and have been marked with positive outcomes. Complaints against police officers along with instances of use of force have both fallen in some communities, such as Rialto, CA. A year-long study conducted by the Police Foundation theorized the knowledge of potentially being watched improved behavior of both police and citizens and reduced the likelihood of lying about interactions.
The cameras have been met with resistance from officers, privacy advocates, and police unions as well. Leadership in San Antonio's Police Officers' Association has come out against the cameras saying it is yet another expensive piece of tech that doesn't address core policing issues.
SAPOA President Det. Mike Helle in a recent interview with TPR said little would be gained from the wearable cameras as the department already uses dash-mounted cameras, along with body microphones, capturing much of what these devices would. Further he stated the infrastructure for current devices is lacking and new tech would further exacerbate long upload times that patrolmen experience currently.
Chief McManus, who announced the pilot a few weeks ago, was not available for an interview on this topic. SAPD provided the following statement:
We will evaluate the results and input directly from the officers testing the equipment. Both the SAPD Labor Relations Committee and the San Antonio Police Officers’ Association will make recommendations to the Chief of Police regarding the feasibility of deploying additional units for permanent use.
- Tony Farrar, Police Chief for the City of Rialto, CA. Farrar was also co-author of the Police Foundation study on wearable cameras.