Community Insight Board: Better safe than sorry on police cameras

One of the new patrol cars from 2009 is shown in this file photo.

It is better safe than sorry when it comes to the increased use of surveillance cameras attached to police officers’ bodies or vehicles.
While Hollister City Council members recently approved spending $87,000 in grant funds for new in-car surveillance cameras, Police Chief David Westrick mentioned that his department is testing body cameras as well.
They’re both good ideas, and the $87,000 is a productive use of grant funds. Law enforcement agencies have been increasing their consideration of such options in light of incidents like the officer-involved shooting in Ferguson, Mo., back in August.
Tension surrounding such incidents can be especially amplified in small communities such as San Benito County. Additionally, there are naturally fewer witnesses and a lower surveillance presence in smaller communities.
Placing cameras on officers’ patrol cars and body wear can only serve to clarify the truth in situations where clarity is needed, and also adds another level of transparency between law enforcement and the public.
It is hard to find a reason to oppose the cameras, but at the same time police and city officials must be careful in establishing clear protocol for access to the video content and any guidelines that might be necessary relating to public records, such as possibly destroying the records after a given time frame.
As with anything in law enforcement – and a reason for the camera surveillance – it’s important to think things through before taking action.

Leave your comments