San Antonio Police will move forward with a controversial plan to equip patrol officers with 'body cameras' which will record their every move inside and outside of their patrol cars, 1200 WOAI's Stephanie Narvaez reports.
Police Chief William McManus told City Council's regular work session that there are a lot of benefits to the body cameras.
"It provides a true record of citizen/officer interaction, it provides evidentiary value for court, and it improves citizen confidence during their interactions with officers," McManus said.
He says about 150 officers have been outfitted with the body cameras, tiny cameras which generally fit on either the officer's glasses or the shoulder epaulettes of his or her uniform.
Civil libertarians are concerned about how long the video that is taken with the cameras will be stored, what it will be used for, and who will get to see it.
"There are types of recordings," McManus said. "One that has evidentiary value in a criminal case, those are stored indefinitely. Everything that is not criminal disappears within 180 days."
But McManus confirmed that officers are not required to inform people they meet on the street that they are being recorded. Currently, all police patrol cars, and patrol cars in most police agencies, are equipped with cameras, and those officers are not required to tell citizens that they are on candid camera, either.
McManus also said that the batteries on the body cameras only have a life of four hours, so the officer will use the camera at his or her 'discretion.' When an officer who allegedly raped a woman last fall, the camera on his patrol car had been turned off. Similarly, when an Incarnate Word police officer shot and killed a student in December, the camera on that police car had been removed.
Many police officers say they like the idea of body cameras, because their biggest fear is a phony complaint of police brutality, harassment, or sexual misconduct being made by an individual who is angry at being stopped by police.