It’s important for SF to get body-camera rules for police right

Publication Type: 
Other Writing
Publication Date: 
June 1, 2016

After months of consideration, the San Francisco Police Commission approved rules Wednesday for use of the latest innovation sweeping law enforcement nationwide — police body-worn cameras. Toney Chaplin, San Francisco’s acting police chief, had announced on his first full day in the job last month that deploying body cameras was his top priority. Just strapping cameras to police officers, however, won’t solve anything. The commission’s rules are a reasonable starting point, but it must monitor deployment closely and be prepared to shift course if the program falters.

There are good ways to deploy body cameras and bad ones. If they are to live up to their promise as tools to hold police accountable for their actions and to vindicate officers falsely accused of misconduct, it’s crucial to get the details right. The policy the Police Commission approved is a good start, but lessons learned by other police departments suggest that additional measures may be necessary to make sure these cameras live up to their promise to provide transparency, protect civil rights, and instill trust in the officers the public authorizes to protect the community.

There is unusual consensus that it’s a good idea to deploy body cameras. Policecommanders support it. The privacy-conscious American Civil Liberties Union (where I used to work) does, too. Public support is very broad: 88 percent of Americanssupport body cameras. For once, political ideology barely matters. Ninety-one percent of self-reported Democrats, 88 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of independents supported requiring officers to wear body cameras. The White House has pledged millions of dollars to speed their adoption.

Read the full piece at the San Francisco Chronicle