The Sacramento Police Department has been rolling out body cameras for police officers over the past few months, and it expects to place them on all patrol officers by this fall.
Right now, you can find the square-box cameras on officers who don’t have access to in-car cameras, including bike patrols, horse-mounted officers and motorcycle cops. But as the cameras become more common, police want the public to know they’re being filmed, and what exactly those cameras are catching.
Here are three facts to know:
1) The cameras are always on, but the footage isn’t always saved. Right now, the cameras always capture a 30-second time loop, but unless an officer hits the big button on the front to save the footage and begin recording, that half-minute is constantly erased. Officers are also able to “tag” moments of filming by pressing a button on the side that allows them to quickly find that time stamp during review. Department spokesman Officer Matt McPhail said that function is helpful to pinpoint significant moments for later prosecution, such as when a suspect discards “contraband.”
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2) Officers get to look at footage before writing a report. This is part of the department’s official policy, but some civil rights organizations across the country, including the ACLU, have lobbied against that access in other departments. They say officers could tailor their report to fit the footage in controversial incidents. But Sacramento Police Department Officer Leah Antonetti, a bike patrol officer who has worn a body camera for about two years as part of the department’s testing phase, said access to footage has been helpful to write clearer accounts of interactions. Officers aren’t able to delete or edit footage, McPhail said.
3) They are attached to cops by magnets. Each device has four powerful magnets on the back. An officer slides a metal plate inside their uniform and sticks the camera to it through their shirt. The plate/camera combo can slide around to accommodate seat belts and ergonomic issues, but officers are required to keep the cameras above their beltline, McPhail said.