The Coast News Group
Community Oceanside

Officers to suit up with body cameras

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside Police field officers will be suited up with body cameras come the first of the year.

Police Capt. Tom Aguigui said body cameras provide transparency to the public and important information to law enforcement personnel.

“It’s a follow-up tool to enhance training, assist with prosecution in criminal cases, record officer conduct and provide accountability,” Aguigui said.

Recorded data can be reviewed by police officers to help them write more accurate reports and utilized by investigators and district attorneys as evidence in criminal prosecutions.

Video footage also builds public trust, serves as an alert to police misconduct and ensures community members of police department transparency. Police video recordings are subject to the Freedom of Information Act and are available for interested parties to view, as are written police reports.

Over the summer the Oceanside Police Department test drove body cameras on 20 officers to compare vendors and iron out protocol.

During the 60-day trial period body cameras were used on day and night shifts, and with specialized units throughout the city, to provide a good sampling of their performance.

Aguigui said the trial period revealed that the cameras provide valuable information, but not the complete picture of occurrences.

“It’s not going to capture everything from a video perspective,” Aguigui said.

Video footage became jumpy and cameras fell off when officers were physically engaged. Other times the static camera lens was blocked or not focused on the incident.

Audio from incidents was always clearly recorded.

Following the trial period the department selected ARQ Digital body cameras and digital managing system. The company is based in Escondido and specializes in law enforcement body-worn cameras and in car video and digital evidence management.

“We selected one that fits our needs and have tremendous support from the chief,” Aguigui said.

In early January 2018 the test pilot group will continue to use body cameras and start to download recorded footage into a digital database, which is in the final stages of being installed.

By mid-January all 225 field officers will be equipped with body cameras as standard gear.

Officers will pick up a body camera at the beginning of their shift and turn on the standby recording mode when they have interactions with the public. At the end of their shift officers will return cameras to one of several docking stations where cameras are recharged and information is downloaded and saved into the digital management server, which provides video storage and access.

Aguigui said there has been positive support in using body cameras from officers and the public. He said younger officers were at ease with the cameras right away, and veteran officers quickly picked up on how to use them.

“I anticipate successful implement,” Aguigui said.

Oceanside began looking into body cameras three years ago. It is one of the last cities in San Diego County to start using them.