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Body Worn Video Steering Group

San Francisco Police to begin using body worn cameras during searches

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San Francisco officers will wear body worn video cameras when serving search warrants, in response to allegations of past illegal searches.

The SFPD have trialled chest mounted cameras over the past year, and the units will be rolled out in the “next month to six weeks,” said Police Chief Greg Suhr.

The cameras are intended to ensure there is “no question” that officers are following protocol when they either request to search a property or serve a warrant.

San Francisco Skyline

In 2011, Public Defender Jeff Adachi came forward with video footage alleging that police were entering single room occupancies without search warrants, then falsifying reports to justify those entries. The charges forced prosecutors to drop hundreds of cases and spawned a federal investigation that is still ongoing.

The cameras, which cost $1000 each, will only be worn by supervisors, and will capture what happens just before police enter a residence.

The Police Chief also said he would not rule out the cameras being used for other circumstances in future.

“I believe that over time as everything gets cheaper, that’s probably next-gen policing.”

However, Suhr noted that “We’re a long way away” as community vetting and changes to department policy would both be required.

Suhr said the cameras are proven to keep officers safe and reduce citizen complaints.

Adachi concurred with Suhr, saying “It’s clear that complaints of police brutality and other misconduct have been dramatically reduced in cities that have implemented body cameras on officers”

Adachi also noted that the cameras should be governed by strict policy, suggesting that footage from searches should not be released to the public, and should not be stored indefinitely.

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