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.