Cop Cams

Cpt. Anthony Mata. Photo Courtesy: NBC

San Jose Police Department will be field testing Body-Worn Cameras 

Hilbert Morales / EL OBSERVADOR

On Thursday noon, 01.14.16, the featured speaker of the Rotary Club, San Jose, East/Evergreen chapter was Captain Anthony Mata, who heads the Foothill Division, which extends from the Berryessa community along the foothills all the way to the Evergreen Community.

Charlie Wasser introduced Captain Mata who began by first informing his audience that the SJPD has extended the effectiveness of its sworn police staff through the employment of “Community Service Officers” (CSO’s) who are assigned to perform administrative tasks, and other work which do not require a ‘sworn police officer’. SJPD Chief Larry Esquivel was able to continue to effectively provide public safety and security services to the City of San Jose despite a staff reduction of ‘sworn officer staff’ from a prior 1500 down to a present 750 sworn police officers. This police force reduction was due to tax revenue shortfalls due to an underperforming economy; issue with police retirement & health care insurance plan matters which are being resolved through negotiation.

SJPD Chief Larry Esquivel has retired on January 17, 2016. His successor, Deputy Police Chief Eddie Garcia, has been appointed interim police chief while a nationwide search for the next appointed SJPD Chief is conducted.

Captain Mata informed all present that the SJPD has been preparing policies and procedures for the adaption and field use of BWC (body-worn cameras). Two models are being evaluated in the field at present. First, the concept of using BWC’s was discussed beginning some three years ago; then procedures and policies were developed. Of interest to San Jose’s residents would be the need to acquire and properly set up a digital data base having sufficient storage capacity . Retention issues required an assessment of privacy issues, rules of law & evidence matters; information security issues; and retention of the videos while maintaining their usefulness and determination of what was actually an essential video-record.

Of interest is the policy and procedure which stipulates that the Officer write his report without referral to the information recorded by his BWC equipment. Another issue is the need to have a policy & procedure to authorize discarding the BWC record when it is not useful nor pertinent to any law enforcement matter. A few BWC videos become classic training materials.

There were other issues to assess. These included obtaining the input of those who would use the BWC recording as evidence. The District Attorney, Public Defender, Independent Policy Auditor, and Superior Court all were included in a review and comment process. The policy and procedure included the rules for discarding BWC records in accordance with current ‘record keeping standards’.

BWC records are projected to reduce certain police complaints of the ‘he-said;she-said’ type. These devices will also permit assessment of three questions which come up in any incident involving ‘police use of force’: Was the use of police force lawful? Reasonable? In accord with approved SJPD police P&P manual? (Which is posted in its entirety online).

Captain Mata revealed, during the Q&A period, that the total weight of law enforcement equipment amounted to about 30 lbs. He added that SJPD will be hiring and training (SJPD Academy) because of the improvement in the local Silicon Valley economy; SJ City Council has allocated required funds. Persons of Color and women are encouraged to consider a career in police work-law enforcement.