Sacramento Police Body Cameras In Trial Mode Before September Launch

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The Sacramento Police Department has unveiled their plan to outfit every officer with a body camera by the end of September.

“There is a large activator button here in the front,” explained Officer Matt McPhail during a demonstration on Monday.

The body cameras are currently worn by 180 officers, but each of the roughly 700 officers with the department will soon have a camera as part of their equipment.

The contract with Taser International is for five years at a cost of roughly $4 million. Much of the cost is for video storage and maintenance by a third party.

“By simply having a camera present, when people know they are being recorded, it actually lowers incidence of assaults on officers and lowers complaints as well,” said McPhail.

Officers on the street say they’ve noticed a difference.

“[When] they’re belligerent towards us and we show them they are being recorded, their behavior changes quite frequently to the better and I love it,” said Officer Leah Antonetti. She’s been wearing the camera for months during a trial period.

In the past, police had to rely on their vehicle cameras and officer statements during an investigation. McPhail says the body cameras will increase transparency about their work.

“It will go a long way to begin rebuilding those bridges of trust,” said Joy Johnson with Sacramento ACT, a faith-based multi-congregational group.

Johnson says the body cameras are a step in the right direction.

“The video can’t tell the whole story,” said Johnson. “It’s at least starting to capture some of the story.”

She says more policy, procedure, and culture changes are needed within police departments.

“I hope it will be accompanied by some accountability so were not just looking at some exciting film,” said Johnson.

The cameras are only activated by the officers, which Sonia Lewis, with Black Lives Matter, says is a problem.

“How are we going to make sure that they’re turning them on every time?” said Lewis.

Lewis says the body cameras are only the start of the conversation about better police practices.

“Who is going to make sure that those law enforcement officers, when they’re found doing something wrong, that they’re going to be accountable?” she said.

The video captured by the body cameras will be kept for 18 months. Police will be able to review the video but won’t be able to edit or delete any of it. According to a city ordinance, video of an officer involved shooting must be made public within 30 days.

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