CARLSBAD — Police officers will have a bit of a new look in the coming weeks.
The City Council approved body-worn cameras for the Carlsbad Police Department and its 11 community service members.
Capt. Mickey Williams presented the details to the council and said it will benefit in all areas of policing. The city will contract through Taser International, who also has deals with departments in Escondido, San Diego, Coronado, Chula Vista and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.
“Through the software, it is easier to share,” Williams said. “The accountability provides service, evidence collection, increased prosecution, reduced use of force and citizen complaints.”
Officers can record anywhere they are legally allowed, he added.
Chief Neil Gallucci said police departments are trending toward cameras as technology provides a more transparent interaction between police and the public.
But, he noted, it also gives law enforcement a leg up in criminal prosecutions and will be a key ally in gaining undoubted convictions.
“It’s just another tool in the law enforcement arsenal,” Gallucci said. “What we are trying to do is to increase accountability and trust on both sides of the equation — law enforcement and the public. When we did our pilot program, we saw they were pretty valuable tools.”
Carlsbad police underwent a two-month pilot program in March and April and Williams said the officers’ feedback was overly positive. In fact, he said those who did not have cameras often requested colleagues with cameras to assist at those scenes.
Williams said there are situations where cameras will not be activated such as in hospitals to protect medical records, etc., and child victims of abuse.
Gallucci echoed Williams’ statement about officer reviews. The devices, however, will not be in place for several months, the chief said.
Due to their popularity, there is a wait to receive the cameras and then officers will undergo training before being deployed with the devices.
“We will put them through a training class and they will go live as soon as we get them,” Gallucci added.
The cost, meanwhile, breaks down to $114,812 for the initial purchase of the cameras plus $156,409 storage fee for five years in a cloud-based system online. Wireless Internet access installation will cost $19,513 and the annual Internet connection runs $13,968.
Williams said those online connections are critical, especially during peak hours where traffic is heavy and upload speeds tend to be slower.
The devices run on a 30-second loop, but when an officer responds to a call, a button is pressed and the previous 30 seconds plus the entire interaction is captured. Williams said the cameras are about the size of a deck of cards and will be on an officer’s chest, although some cameras will be mounted on the lapels.
Canine units will also wear the devices.
Audio capabilities, meanwhile, will not activate unless an officer starts a recording.
Gallucci said the city’s video storage will be through evidence.com, which the aforementioned agencies also use.
He added it will be easier to share and review footage with those entities should investigations lead out of Carlsbad into neighboring cities.
As for public availability of the videos, Gallucci said they will not be released until an investigation is closed. The Coast News requested footage from the pilot program, but CPD Community Relations Manager Jodee Sasway said those files are unavailable as they are considered “investigative” videos.
“They are part of investigative files, which are evidentiary and exempt under the TRA,” Gallucci added. “I have the ability to release video if I think there is a benefit to the public. We still have the ability to redact (such as blur faces) because there are privacy issues. The (San Diego County) DA (District Attorney’s Office) will be responsible for releasing videos on critical incidents.”