Fresno Police Department Getting 100 Body Cameras

Published 07/31 2014 09:23AM

Updated 07/31 2014 09:06PM

Fresno City Council voted unanimously Thursday to give Fresno Police $90,000 to pay for 100 wearable cameras for officers. 

"Video is not only the way of the future, it's the way of the present," Chief Dyer says. 

Fresno Police's Homeless Task Force has been using the cameras for the past year as they work with the homeless. Dyer says they haven't had a single complaint against them during that time. Sergeant Robert Dewey says the cameras take some getting used to but he adds that he know turns it on without realizing. 

"Like drawing your weapon or getting a flashlight, talking on the radio," Sgt. Dewey says, "It's actually been really easy to get used to."

The cameras clip on with a magnet to an officer's collar. An officer taps the unit twice to start a recording but the camera is constantly buffering so when it starts recording it captures the previous 30 seconds. The video is uploaded to a cloud storage system where it can be viewed by anyone with access. Video cannot be deleted straight from the camera. 

Chief Dyer hopes the cameras will help keep both the public and his officers on their best behavior. 

"What I do know is that when people are on camera, they act differently," Chief Dyer says. 

Still not everyone is convinced that the cameras will prevent officers from using excessive force. Gloria Hernandez, a mental health expert with Fresno Stolen lives says she worries officers will turn the cameras off as a situation escalates. 

"I don't think the body cameras are going to stop the bullets, I think more retraining needs to be done," Hernandez says. 

Hernandez says officers need more training on how to deal with people with mental illness and on how to de-escalate situations.

A study of police officers wearing body cameras at the Rialto Police Department showed a 60% drop in use of force. The study results are prompting police departments across the country to put more video on patrol. Chief Dyer believes they'll have an impact in Fresno too.

"We know that we're going to be able to reduce complaints, use of force complaints and ultimately reduce litigation costs to the City of Fresno and be able to capture information on video that allows us to successfully prosecute suspects," Chief Dyer says.

Defense Attorney Charles Magill thinks the cameras are a great idea. 

 "If those video tapes are available we're gonna know the truth and the truth is what we're all shooting for in a courtroom," Magill says.

Fresno Police has also received a $70,000 federal grant to help pay for the cameras. The department will keep all of the footage for at least a year unless it's needed for judicial proceedings. 

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