Taken from an ACLU press release issued Tuesday, June 10.
After months of scandal, the San Diego Police Department has announced it’s taking steps toward addressing police misconduct by requiring body cameras to be worn by many SDPD officers, according to the ACLU. The civil rights organization states that while body cameras can help protect both citizens and officers, it still has serious concerns with what is and is not included in SDPD’s draft policies for these cameras, as well as for the process of implementation.
The draft policy states that “officers are not required to give notice they are recording. However, if asked, officers shall advise citizens they are being recorded.”
The ACLU believes this poses a potential problem, as one of the purposes of body worn cameras is to improve both officer and citizen behavior. That opportunity may be missed if a person isn’t informed the interaction is being recorded. The ACLU states the policy should require officers, whenever feasible, to notify citizens they are being recorded, which may mean using information cards available in different languages.
Furthermore, the policy doesn’t provide any steps detailing how a member of the public can flag a recording or obtain a copy — something the ACLU believes should be possible without filing a formal complaint. It’s only through this type of public access that police accountability can actually be heightened thereby allowing a trust of the system to form, an official for the organization said.
No disciplinary actions are currently laid out for an officer who violates his or her duties under the policy. While the ACLU said it recognizes that all changes can’t be made over night, it believes that it’s dangerous to not include a method for dealing with transgressions in the draft policy.
According to the ACLU, another troubling issue is the SDPD’s request for funding to expand this body cameras pilot project before having released a final policy for their use. Without transparency and public input, the ACLU sees a missed opportunity for the Police Department to build trust and address any concerns the public may have. As a result, the ACLU has appealed to the City Council to ensure that the policy’s final version include the recommendations mentioned above, along with others, in order to provide adequate privacy protections and improve community-police relations throughout the city.