LaDoris Cordell: San Jose Should Outfit Police Officers with Cameras


Judge LaDoris Cordell San Jose Independent Police Auditor

Police Chief Chris Moore,  the City Council, and the mayor, are all in agreement with getting the  San Jose Police Department outfitted with cameras.  We have the funds to purchase the cameras,  and San Jose should take the next step and do it.  This would help stop the fraudulent police reports, unnecessary use of force, and restore the trust back in the community which is long over do. Read the position by Judge Ladoris Cordell, San Jose’s Independent Police Auditor.  Submission Post by Gail Noble

By LaDoris Cordell: Special to the Mercury News — Thursday morning saw San Jose’s eighth officer involved shooting this year, the fourth to end in a fatality.  The  circumstances of the  shooting are under investigation by the San Jose Police Department.  Undoubtedly, there will be a review and an assessment by the district attorney;  and because a member of  the  public registered a concern about the shooting with us, the Office of the Independent Police Auditor will ensure that the investigation into the question of whether or not there was any police misconduct is fair, thorough and objective.

But already, the finger-point has begun.  The officer’s version of the incident has the deceased  in a bedroom brandishing a gun at the officer;  and the civilian witness’s version has the officer shooting at an unarmed man in his bedroom.  This “he-said, she said” response is nothing new.  It happens all the time when there are controversial police incidents;  in most instances, the final determination whatever it is, leaves one side or the other dissatisfied.  If the officer is absolved of any misconduct and the shooting deemed justified, a public outcry ensues with shout of biased policing, frequently emanating from communities of color.  If the officer is deemed to have violated department policy, police officers and their multitude of supporters in the community express their outrage.  And what we all end up with is a city divided by anger and mistrust.
Had the involved officers been wearing cameras, the incident would have been recorded, and there would be no finger-pointing.  Instead,   we would all know what happened in that bedroom Thursday morning.  Cameras would have provided instantaneous accountability.  Attached to the officers’ uniforms, these small cameras can be activated whenever there is a police interaction with the public.  The footage is stored digitally for an indefinite period so that it can be retrieved when needed.  Recently the Phoenix Police Department bought 50 cameras with a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Smart Policing Initiative.  A three-month trial of the cameras that ended in june resulted in footage, some of which is being used as evidence in court in 62 criminal cases.
The push for cameras in Phoenix was the result of several police incidents that angered members of communities of color, including one  in March 2010 in which
an African-American City council member was wrestled to the ground and handcuffed by a white officer.  We shouldn’t wait for an explosive incident like that to occur before bringing cameras to the San Jose Police Department.
Over the past 10 years, claims in the United States stemming from police incidents amounted to $22 billion dollars.  If officers were to utilize cameras while on patrol, claims based upon allegations of police misconduct brought against cities would surely drop dramatically.  Similarly, those claims in which police misconduct is confirmed by footage would be quickly settled without litigation.  In the end, cameras would lower costs, increase police and public accountability,  and build trust between the community and law enforcement.
San Jose rightfully prides itself as the capital of Silicon Valley.  As such we ought to be leading the way in policing technology by outfitting every police officer in the San Jose Police Department with cameras.  Police Chief Chris Moore has, on many occasions, stated his strong desire to bring on-police cameras to San Jose, so leadership is there.  The mayor and City Council are on record for their support of effective policing and for building trust between officers and the public. The political will is there.  The federal money is there, too,  if we but ask.

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