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Oakland PD Body Cams Help Cut Police-Involved Shootings From 8 A Year To Zero In The Last 18 Months.

from the the-Mild-West-of-law-enforcement dept

More good news on the police body cam front: according to Oakland’s mayor, the police department’s camera program has significantly reduced use of force incidents.

[Mayor] Jean Quan said Oakland police officers had 2,186 use-of-force incidents in 2009, the last year that no officers wore body cameras, and that number declined to 836 such incidents last year and to only 572 incidents so far this year, with just two weeks remaining.

It’s not just excessive force that’s seen a drastic reduction. The department’s 619 body cams have also played a part in reducing the use of deadly force.

She also noted that the department has gone more than 18 months without an officer-involved shooting, in a city that used to average about eight such incidents a year.

Additionally, Quan said the captured footage has been useful in defending officers against bogus excessive force allegations, proving the cameras “work both ways.”

A body camera system is nothing without solid policies backing them up. Anyone can instruct an officer to wear a camera, but only a department solidly behind the program will hold them accountable if they fail to do so. According to public records obtained by Ars Technica, the Oakland PD is making a genuine effort to ensure devices are on and recording.

Over the last two years, the Oakland Police Department (OPD) has disciplined police officers on 24 occasions for disabling or failing to activate body-worn cameras, newly released public records show

The new data shows that the most common punishment for officers who did not comply with their own department’s policy was a “written reprimand” or a suspension of one to three days. One officer was even suspended for 20 days in December 2013 due to an allegation of failing to activate his body-worn camera.

On November 22, 2013, there were five separate incidents where officers allegedly “improperly removed” or “failed to initiate their PDRD.” One of those officers, none of whom were named, appears to have resigned as a result of the incident.

As Cyrus Farivar points out, something strange happened on November 22 of last year (records requests have been filed for more details), but otherwise, department officials are staying on top of cops who don’t comply with the camera policy. This also suggests the city’s 700 officers are comfortable with the recording devices, as the number of violations is very low. If this were just a case of underreported abuse, it’s likely the department would not have seen such a dramatic drop in use of force incidents.

Taking this program seriously is essential to its success. To do otherwise is to trend towards something like the Los Angeles Police Department’s situation: widespread and open abuse. Voice recording equipment installed in vehicles was routinely tampered with and one precinct found that half of its squad cars had their antennas removed or disabled. Those overseeing the recording program weren’t informed of this abuse until months after it had been discovered.

Outside factors can have some effect on officer behavior, but better policing starts from within. The Oakland PD seems to have a handle on its body cam program and both its officers and the public they serve are better for it.

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Comments on “Oakland PD Body Cams Help Cut Police-Involved Shootings From 8 A Year To Zero In The Last 18 Months.”

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20 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

It’s strange how cops wearing cameras reduces instances of police use-of-force and shootings, yet every time one of these instances gets covered by the media or on the internet, the cops, city officials, and their supporters always claim it’s the victim’s fault and it’s always something they did or didn’t do that caused the incident.

There certainly are legitimate citizen-caused incidents of police violence and shootings, but this trend seems to strongly indicate that police are changing their behavior with these cameras on and apparently that reduces these instances. If the police changing their behavior reduces these instances, it seems like the police are likely contributing greatly to the occurrence of these instances.

I know the obvious response to this conclusion is, “duh, we already knew that,” but we need to keep publishing these numbers to get it ingrained in the collective consciousness of our culture.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“I like how numbers from 2010,2011, and 2012 are conveniently left out of the statement.”

Try following the links sometime. Cited news article reports these numbers for use of force incidents (from the mayor).
2009: 2,186
2010: 1,945 (year implied)
2011: 1,494
2012: 1,244
2013: 836

I hate having to do the reading comprehension part for others… but some people are ridiculous.
2014: 572 (so far)

David says:

It’s strange how cops wearing cameras reduces instances of police use-of-force and shootings, yet every time one of these instances gets covered by the media or on the internet, the cops, city officials, and their supporters always claim it’s the victim’s fault and it’s always something they did or didn’t do that caused the incident.

The logic is something like: this rape would have been more pleasant for everyone involved if the victim had just followed instructions and filed charges later.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Honestly the sheer gall and arrogance of the police when it comes to that sort of thing doesn’t even surprise me any more. Disgust, absolutely, but I know already there really isn’t a ‘too low to consider’ for the majority of them.

At this point I’m just waiting for some cop to file charges for ‘Theft of police property’ when someone they shoot is hauled off to jail or the hospital without ‘returning’ the bullets the officer has ‘generously loaned them’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What, are you an 11th grade science student who is parroting back what the teacher just told you?

Correlation and causation are not equal, but are linked. It is nearly impossible to definitively prove causation outside of a lab due to the number of variables… but you’d know that if you weren’t an 11th grader.

This article says that there is some link between item A (reduction in shooting and use of force events) and item B (the increased use of body cameras). There are way more factors talked about in the original news article that aren’t covered here, probably because the point of this story is to point out that cameras appear to be part of a positive move in this city. The fact you jump to causation means you don’t know the difference, cause the writer of this story uses the word “help”, not “cause”.

So yeah, good luck finishing up school.

Anonymous Coward says:

Doesn't work in Missouri

Police wear cams.
Police tape over nametags.
Police tell citizens to go fuck themselves.
Police brutally murder another boy and leave him to bleed to death on the ground, denying him medical care and refusing to let his mother comfort him.
Police refuse to release video of incident.

Next?

Police release personal details on the dead boy in order to demonize him and justify his death. (This will probably include planting evidence and suppressing witness statements.)
Police and prosecutors rig the grand jury process.
Police start “charity” fund to lavishly reward the officer who pulled the trigger.
Repeat.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Doesn't work in Missouri

Cameras help, but when the entire force, and courts, in a given area are completely corrupt already, cameras aren’t really going to do much to solve that.

When a scumbag cop knows that, video or not, they can do whatever they want and neither their superiors, nor the judges, will ever hold them accountable, then the video doesn’t really matter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Another study

Here’s a story about the publishing of the controlled study in Rialto, California by the University of Cambridge (mentioned previously on Techdirt).

http://m.phys.org/news/2014-12-scientific-police-body-worn-cameras-unacceptable-use-of-force.html

“During the 12-month Rialto experiment, use-of-force by officers wearing cameras fell by 59% and reports against officers dropped by 87% against the previous year’s figures.”

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