Colusa police officers will soon be equipped with body-worn cameras.
Acting Police Chief Josh Fitch expects the cameras to send the public a message that the city is proud of its organization and is willing to hold its officers to the highest standards of accountability.
Following last year’s controversial shooting in Ferguson, Mo., police and sheriff’s departments across the country are either testing or adopting body-worn cameras for their officers, Colusa officials said.
The Colusa County Sheriff’s Office is also expected to outfit its deputies with the devices.
Fitch sees the cameras as a way to protect the public and hold police accountable.
“The use of body-worn cameras, when implemented correctly, can help strengthen the police profession by promoting agency accountability and transparency,” Fitch said.
The cameras can also be useful tools for increasing officer professionalism and training, he said, and can provide evidence for criminal investigations, civil litigation and allegations of officer misconduct.
Fitch said the state Office of Emergency Services has made funding available for the city to lease 10 cameras for one year for $3,000, after which they can be purchased outright at very little cost.
The cameras would attach to officers’ collars, and each officer will be responsible for turning them on during all enforcement stops, field interrogation situations, arrests, searches, pursuits and confrontational contacts, Fitch said.
Fitch also wants his officers to record pedestrian contacts, interviews and other events when the recording has value as evidence or could resolve citizens complaints.
The recording can also serve as a training tool, he said.
“Officers are not expected to record encounters that would undermine community members’ privacy rights or damage important police-community relationships,” according to policy adopted by the City Council on March 17.
Privacy, of course, is one of the kinks the department will have to work out as officers get accustomed to wearing and activating the camera, Fitch said.
The City Council believes the use of the cameras could influence both the behavior of officers and those they encounter in a positive way, and as a result, should reduce the potential for use of force.
Officials also hope the use of body-worn camera will paint a broader narrative of events than just those captured by the public on cell phone cameras.
“People are recording everything we do,” Fitch said. “Now, police officers will have their vantage point as well.”
In Glenn County, the use of recordings have significantly reduced the number of allegations of police misconduct made by the public in the nearly two years that the Sheriff’s Office has used body-worn cameras, according to officials there.
Fitch said he expects all of his officers will be outfitted with the new cameras in the next three to four months.
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