Fresno’s police auditor takes issue with the use of body cameras worn by officers. The auditor released his quarterly report Monday.
It’s the second time this year the police auditor has criticized officers for not having their cameras on and rolling when they are on potentially high risk calls.
The auditor said those cameras could record violent encounters and protect the officers when complaints are made.
In a highly publicized case, Fresno police released the body camera video from an officer involved shooting in June. That video is now a critical part of the investigation.
Police chief Jerry Dyer started to equip his officers with body cameras last year, in 2015. Not every officer has one yet.
“It takes time for officers in the field to get used to activating those body worn cameras, especially when they’re in the midst of an emergency call for service, a traffic stop of gang members,” Dyer said.
For the second time this year, the police auditor found an instance where an officer did not turn on their body camera when the policy called for it.
“At the time of this audit, there were three officers that were on a traffic stop. Two of those officers had body worn cameras. One of the officers activated the camera. The other officer failed to do so. And that officer has been talked to by their sergeant,” Dyer said.
Officers don’t keep the cameras rolling during their entire shift. There isn’t enough enough battery for that.
But they are supposed to turn them on when they make an arrest, pull over a car, or interview victims and witness, and other instances.
The video is uploaded to the cloud.
It could be saved for months, years, or indefinitely depending on the case.
“We recognize the importance of the body worn camera. But I don’t want it to become so important that it causes officers to become distracted so they’re not taking care of their safety first,” Dyer said.
Chief Dyer said the department has 400 body cameras. There are close to 700 officers in the department.
More cameras are being added. They’re paid for with private donations, grant money, and money from the city.