Sacramento police officers are changing the position of their body cameras to minimize accidental shut-offs when officers use their rifles, a police spokesman said Monday.
The change was implemented after police learned that the body cameras of multiple officers were turned off when officers fatally shot 19-year-old Darell Richards in September – including the camera of one of the SWAT officers who fired shots, said Vance Chandler, Sacramento police spokesman.
“(They’re) putting them now in a place where the stock of their weapon is less likely to hit the button to turn them off,” Chandler said. Chandler said officers were previously wearing the cameras on the center of their chests, where rifle butts were prone to hit the power switch. Now officers who carry rifles will wear cameras off to the side.
The change applies to the department’s roughly 15 SWAT officers, as well as all patrol officers who carry rifles, Chandler said.
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The department is looking for a long-term solutions to the problem, Chandler said.
Richards’ family has filed a claim against the city – a precursor to a federal civil rights lawsuit, said John Burris, the family’s lawyer.
Burris, who has litigated several police shooting cases, said he has not heard of officers’ weapons turning off body cameras.
“There should not be a situation where typically the best evidence in a case is neutralized because of the video camera’s contact with the weapon,” Burris said. “It should never happen.”
Several other departments who buy body cameras from the same company, Axon, have had similar issues, Chandler said.
During a news conference Monday, Richards’ family and Black Lives Matter activists criticized the department for the cameras being turned off. They also demanded the police department release the names of the officers involved, demanded the city fire the officers involved, and demanded the District Attorney’s Office charge the officers. Richards had mental health issues, family members said.
“They had a chance to use other options, for them to arrest him, bring him in alive instead of them just shooting him down the way they did,” said Kathie Richards, Darell’s grandmother. “I still don’t understand why the SWAT team was brought in to the situation.”
The two officers who fired shots were placed on paid administrative leave, in accordance with the department’s policy for police-involved shootings, Chandler said. Both officers are now back on active duty.
The department does not plan to release the officers’ names because the department has received threats against them, but the department will continue to consider it, Chandler said.
The incident began at around 11:30 p.m. Sept. 5 when a 911 caller said a man wearing a face mask was pointing a gun at people while walking up Broadway. Patrol officers found the man near 20th Street and Broadway, and he fled to Curtis Park. Police blocked off streets, used K-9 officers and a California Highway Patrol airplane crew to find him. SWAT officers found Richards hours later crouching under a stairwell in the backyard of a Curtis Park home.
Police said Richards pointed the gun at officers, causing police to fatally shoot him. Afterward, police said they recovered Richards’ gun, which looked like a 9mm handgun but was actually a pellet gun. They said they also recovered a knife.
Police later released video of the incident, which showed Richards had a gun, but did not show where he pointed it.
The police investigation in to the incident is ongoing, Chandler said. The investigation includes determining whether the officers acted according to policy.