Last week OPD announced it would finally be equipping local police with the lapel cameras we reported they purchased late last summer. A total of 350 cameras will go into service in West and North Oakland, allowing police to record every interaction.
The cost of these cameras was more than $500,000 but the benefits are reported to be as valuable. The cameras aren’t just for evidence in criminal cases, the department claims they will also increase officer accountability.
An OPD Captain states that officers are receptive to the new tool because it shows the truth of interactions, backing up honest police reports. One officer claims civilian complaints against him have dropped considerably since he began wearing the camera a few months ago. “It holds accountability at both levels.”
Holding the police accountable is no doubt a positive feature for the community as well. The Oakland Police Department has certainly had their share of blunders in public relations. From brutality to racial profiling complaints, many have high hopes for these little cameras.
The lapel cams can actually be used on the dash of the patrol car or hooked to the uniform of the officer. Each holds 4 GB of memory and can record for about 4 hours. The recorded footage will be retained for about 5 years.
Further increasing the potential benefits of these cameras is that they are required to be on during traffic stops, walking stops, searches, and other interactions. Officers are not allowed to alter footage and must download the camera contents within one day of patrol. The footage will be used in officer evaluations and will even be available to the public via open records laws.
Although camera equipped police is a little futuristic, a little Big Brother-esque, this could be a situation where such surveillance has more redeeming factors than not. It seems the rules regarding the use of these cameras are more than just public appeasement and truly have the potential to increase officer accountability, something all of Oakland can be hopeful for.
Unless a police encounter is recorded, it often results in a he said-she said situation. And often when there is conflicting information in your version of events and the officer’s version, the police are given the benefit of the doubt.
If you are facing criminal charges and feel like no one is taking your side into consideration, contact our attorneys. We can offer you a free consultation and some information on how we might be able to help.