News

MV police to wear body cameras

Police say plan to equip patrol officers with cameras will roll out this winter

Body cameras for on-duty police officers took the center stage in a national discussion on police accountability this week, but Mountain View's been planning to equip officers with the recording devices for the past year.

In the wake of riots and protests surrounding the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama this week called for $263 million to pay equipping and training local law enforcement with the cameras.

Mountain View police say they're one step ahead of the game, and are finalizing a program that started years ago to equip 66 officers with the small, wearable cameras in the coming months.

The Mountain View Police Department has been considering the use of body cameras for four years, and last year decided to spend $135,000 to equip patrol officers with the recording devices, according to Capt. Chris Hsiung of the Mountain View Police Department. Though the program is expensive, Hsiung said police officer behavior tends to improve when they have body cameras, and incidents of physical confrontation tends to go down between officers and the public.

Hsiung and other advocates for police cameras cite a study of the Rialto Police Department, which found that the use of force by police officers dropped by nearly 60 percent when they had cameras on. Formal complaints against police also decreased by about 90 percent.

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"Things become a lot more cordial," Hsiung said.

Before the department fully deploys the cameras, Hsiung said they still needs to finalize policies on how exactly police are supposed to use the cameras, as well as communicate with the police officers association about privacy concerns.

Though officers are not expected to always have their camera on during long, 12-hour shifts including breaks, Hsiung said there is an expectation that the cameras should be recording prior to interacting with the public.

"The camera should be on anytime we know there's going to be an encounter between officers and people," Hsiung said. "If someone is threatening an officer, they have a lot more to think about besides stopping to turn on their camera."

The Menlo Park Police Department has similar guidelines for body cameras on their officers, but when three Menlo Park police were involved in the fatal shooting of a burglary suspect last month, neither of the two responding officers equipped with cameras had them switched on during the incident.

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The cameras to be used by Mountain View police are called Axon Flex cameras, and are small recording devices that can be mounted onto helmets, sunglasses and collars. Hsiung said they chose the camera because of the way it adjusts to light and dark rooms similar to the human eye. He said it's important for the camera to reflect exactly what the cop saw and avoid problems where the footage appears to show something that's at odds with what actually happened.

"We wanted something that would be as accurate as possible," Hsiung said.

To pay for the cameras, the department is using $49,000 from drug asset forfeiture fund, as well as $60,000 from its "digital photo project fund" to pay for most of the costs.

The digital photo fund was set aside by the department several years ago amid concerns over digital photography and whether the photos used by police would be admissible as evidence in court. It turns out digital photos weren't really problematic in the court system, Hsiung said, and the money has since been re-appropriated to pay for camera costs.

The $135,000 will go towards purchasing the 66 cameras as well as any associated uploading and data storage costs.

In the presidential announcement, Obama said the body cameras would be a positive step towards improving relations between local law enforcement and the public, and that there is "simmering distrust" between police and minority groups. Tensions over the August shooting of Brown erupted anew when a grand jury report failed to indict the police office who shot him, prompting demonstrations and riots across the country.

Hsiung said the Mountain View Police Department is not purchasing the cameras in response to the Ferguson situation, or any chronic unrest between law enforcement and the Mountain View community. Instead, he called the decision an opportunity to open up to the public.

"The cameras are not a result of any sort of distrust, but an effort to bring out more transparency in how we interact with the community," Hsiung said.

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Kevin Forestieri is an assistant editor with the Mountain View Voice and The Almanac. He joined the Voice in 2014 and has reported on schools, housing, crime and health. Read more >>

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MV police to wear body cameras

Police say plan to equip patrol officers with cameras will roll out this winter

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Thu, Dec 4, 2014, 9:05 am

Body cameras for on-duty police officers took the center stage in a national discussion on police accountability this week, but Mountain View's been planning to equip officers with the recording devices for the past year.

In the wake of riots and protests surrounding the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama this week called for $263 million to pay equipping and training local law enforcement with the cameras.

Mountain View police say they're one step ahead of the game, and are finalizing a program that started years ago to equip 66 officers with the small, wearable cameras in the coming months.

The Mountain View Police Department has been considering the use of body cameras for four years, and last year decided to spend $135,000 to equip patrol officers with the recording devices, according to Capt. Chris Hsiung of the Mountain View Police Department. Though the program is expensive, Hsiung said police officer behavior tends to improve when they have body cameras, and incidents of physical confrontation tends to go down between officers and the public.

Hsiung and other advocates for police cameras cite a study of the Rialto Police Department, which found that the use of force by police officers dropped by nearly 60 percent when they had cameras on. Formal complaints against police also decreased by about 90 percent.

"Things become a lot more cordial," Hsiung said.

Before the department fully deploys the cameras, Hsiung said they still needs to finalize policies on how exactly police are supposed to use the cameras, as well as communicate with the police officers association about privacy concerns.

Though officers are not expected to always have their camera on during long, 12-hour shifts including breaks, Hsiung said there is an expectation that the cameras should be recording prior to interacting with the public.

"The camera should be on anytime we know there's going to be an encounter between officers and people," Hsiung said. "If someone is threatening an officer, they have a lot more to think about besides stopping to turn on their camera."

The Menlo Park Police Department has similar guidelines for body cameras on their officers, but when three Menlo Park police were involved in the fatal shooting of a burglary suspect last month, neither of the two responding officers equipped with cameras had them switched on during the incident.

The cameras to be used by Mountain View police are called Axon Flex cameras, and are small recording devices that can be mounted onto helmets, sunglasses and collars. Hsiung said they chose the camera because of the way it adjusts to light and dark rooms similar to the human eye. He said it's important for the camera to reflect exactly what the cop saw and avoid problems where the footage appears to show something that's at odds with what actually happened.

"We wanted something that would be as accurate as possible," Hsiung said.

To pay for the cameras, the department is using $49,000 from drug asset forfeiture fund, as well as $60,000 from its "digital photo project fund" to pay for most of the costs.

The digital photo fund was set aside by the department several years ago amid concerns over digital photography and whether the photos used by police would be admissible as evidence in court. It turns out digital photos weren't really problematic in the court system, Hsiung said, and the money has since been re-appropriated to pay for camera costs.

The $135,000 will go towards purchasing the 66 cameras as well as any associated uploading and data storage costs.

In the presidential announcement, Obama said the body cameras would be a positive step towards improving relations between local law enforcement and the public, and that there is "simmering distrust" between police and minority groups. Tensions over the August shooting of Brown erupted anew when a grand jury report failed to indict the police office who shot him, prompting demonstrations and riots across the country.

Hsiung said the Mountain View Police Department is not purchasing the cameras in response to the Ferguson situation, or any chronic unrest between law enforcement and the Mountain View community. Instead, he called the decision an opportunity to open up to the public.

"The cameras are not a result of any sort of distrust, but an effort to bring out more transparency in how we interact with the community," Hsiung said.

Comments

mike
Monta Loma
on Dec 4, 2014 at 10:16 am
mike, Monta Loma
on Dec 4, 2014 at 10:16 am

I began wearing a helmet cam when cycling, and I discovered that many of my near-misses with cars/peds could be avoided by using a little more care in my riding habits. Watching videos can give a person more insight regarding their actions. Potentially, reviewing police videos can improve each officers performance.


Shileded
Old Mountain View
on Dec 4, 2014 at 3:03 pm
Shileded, Old Mountain View
on Dec 4, 2014 at 3:03 pm

I also use a camera when cycling. I've defended myself in court with it when a pedestrian walked out in front of me and claimed it was my fault.
Worth every single penny and may also assist ion catching hit and run drivers as has happened regularly sine the cams became more popular.
Nothing helps gets to the truth of the matter like video evidence :)


Concerned
Willowgate
on Dec 4, 2014 at 11:09 pm
Concerned, Willowgate
on Dec 4, 2014 at 11:09 pm

"the use of force by police officers dropped by nearly 60 percent when they had cameras on."

There's no clearer proof that the police abuse their power than this statistic. If they are consciously changing their behavior because they know it's being recorded, what does that say about the quality of their behavior all these years when they weren't being watched? The profession naturally attracts megalomaniacs, as it gives them the perfect opportunity to indulge in their power plays. Hopefully with use of body cameras, these bullies will think twice about even joining the force, because it just won't be fun if they can't intimidate and act out with no repercussions. They are sick and need to get help.


Question
Old Mountain View
on Dec 5, 2014 at 1:23 am
Question, Old Mountain View
on Dec 5, 2014 at 1:23 am

It seems like the policeman would be able to turn their camera on and off whenever they like. Will they be able to delete too? If so, I don't see how this addresses the national problem of racism in the police departments. It just seems to be there for the protection of the officers... :(


Shamus O'Please
Bailey Park
on Dec 5, 2014 at 6:04 am
Shamus O'Please, Bailey Park
on Dec 5, 2014 at 6:04 am

" If so, I don't see how this addresses the national problem of racism in the police departments. "

What made you think the intended result was to catch wrong doing cops? Most cameras on cops have been used to defend the cops from false accusation by the public...something that happens VERY regularly. Just because something is in the national attention does not mean the issue of bad cps and racism exists in every dept across the nation. The cameras is meant to protect cops from an irrational public, all too willing to scream misconduct. Now the good cops can defend themselves from this sort of behavior.


Ah
Old Mountain View
on Dec 5, 2014 at 9:24 am
Ah, Old Mountain View
on Dec 5, 2014 at 9:24 am

Thank you Mr. Bailey Park resident for denying the existence of racism in police departments. And thank you Fox News for giving you such a fine education!


Think clearly
Bailey Park
on Dec 5, 2014 at 10:17 am
Think clearly, Bailey Park
on Dec 5, 2014 at 10:17 am

Wow, you jumped to a huge conclusion there.
So suggesting the racism is not within every dept is the same as saying it doesn't exists at all in your book?
OK, you wrote it so I gotta think that's what you truly believe.

I personally think the cameras will be good for everyone involved, not just one side.
Also, not that it matters, but my political beliefs are what most on FOX news would consider to be that of a tree hugging bleeding hart liberal.


Tired argument
Old Mountain View
on Dec 5, 2014 at 11:12 am
Tired argument , Old Mountain View
on Dec 5, 2014 at 11:12 am

Yet another Fox News argument. Thanks for that!

Your argument is that since every police department has not been shown to have a problem with racist officers, then that is not the reason for them? Whew! Think much??

Guess what happens when cops know they are being recorded? Much fewer problems with illegal actions by the police, so of course most of the use of them would be against perps.

Unfortunately, by giving the officer the ability to disable and delete footage, they can pick and choose what video evidence survives. That is another reason why cameras like these might pick up more civilian misbehavior than police.


Uh-Huh
Bailey Park
on Dec 5, 2014 at 11:23 am
Uh-Huh, Bailey Park
on Dec 5, 2014 at 11:23 am

Why does it have to be one or the other? Yes, I agree, much fewer complaints happen when EVERYONE knows they are on camera and the truth will come out. That's BEFORE people know if a cop deleted the footage.

Both sides win with the cameras. Sorry that reality doesn't fit neatly into an all or nothing type thought process. The "All or Nothing" belief requires less complex thought so it's easy to see why some in our population feel this way.


tommy_g
Cuesta Park
on Dec 5, 2014 at 2:21 pm
tommy_g, Cuesta Park
on Dec 5, 2014 at 2:21 pm

I am not 100 % how it works....what if the Officer decides to turn it on and off at his whim. Can they stay on by default? so the officer has no choice ? what if he takes it off his uniform and beats the shit out of someone? I mean it sounds good....but I do not trust it....and MV cops need it....they are rogue cops!!!!!!!!


1%er
Bailey Park
on Dec 5, 2014 at 2:36 pm
1%er, Bailey Park
on Dec 5, 2014 at 2:36 pm

I guess we'll all have to come to the grips that there is no such thing as perfection and 100% in anything when it comes to dealing with people.
Its great for cops and citizens alike. Win win for everyone.


Maher
Martens-Carmelita
on Dec 5, 2014 at 3:12 pm
Maher, Martens-Carmelita
on Dec 5, 2014 at 3:12 pm

I'm so pleased to read this story. Clearer actual accounts of all behaviors will benefit everyone. I congratulate the MVPD for its good sense on this issue. I feel safer for it.

I only wish they would reexamine their need for tasers vs the national stats about the negative results (including deaths esp vav elderly folks) from those interactions.

But mostly thanks for this good choice.


Sparty
Registered user
another community
on Dec 5, 2014 at 4:33 pm
Sparty, another community
Registered user
on Dec 5, 2014 at 4:33 pm

If people know they are on camera, they will not act up as much... it's not "proof" that cameras "make cops behave"

What is a fact is that there are more violent altercations instigated by both sides when there are 2 or more officers rather than a single officer. Neither side want's to look like they aren't "tough"


Name hidden
Sylvan Park

on Sep 25, 2017 at 10:46 pm
Name hidden, Sylvan Park

on Sep 25, 2017 at 10:46 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


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