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Body-worn cameras help, hurt law enforcement in Menlo Park

Original post made on Dec 3, 2014

The fatal shooting by three Menlo Park police officers of a burglary suspect who reportedly drew a gun during a foot pursuit on Nov. 11 has shed light on how the realities of implementing new technology such as body-worn cameras can backfire.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 8:41 AM

Comments (23)

Posted by David B
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Dec 3, 2014 at 1:07 pm

A cautious thumbs-up to Chief Jonson and the PD for what appears to be taking the right attitude on this. Many of us who would be inclined to support our police, have been poisoned by the cases of outrageous behavior that come to light too often around the country. For now I accept the Chief at his word that the failure to record this incident was unintentional and perhaps caused by learning curve issues.... but they do need to work hard to get this right, to keep their credibility with us.


Posted by too busy driving to activate?
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Dec 3, 2014 at 1:24 pm

"was unintentional and perhaps caused by learning curve issues"

Learn to slide a button is too difficult?

Officer's in a car, gets a call about a suspicious person (no mention of weapons or violent behavior) and he somehow "forgets" to activate the camera before exiting the car, or the drive to the call? Maybe his hands were too busy making a cell phone call while driving.

That's not training. That's not stupidity (one assumes). That's disregard for the job.


Posted by Lesson learned
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2014 at 1:32 pm

It's pretty obvious from reading the comments by law enforcement officials from Atherton and Menlo Park that they view the cameras as a tool to help them when unfounded complaints are made. The cameras can prove no misconduct occurred. What about the other direction? As a tool to protect the public from police misconduct and unjustified uses of force? (Let's not debate whether this happens all the time or in very rare instances; no one can deny it's worthy of being prevented). Retired judge Cordell recognizes for the public to benefit from these cameras, the policy must mandate they be used all the time, and not just when a police officer wants to protect himself. Seems like obvious common sense.


Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 3, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

"That's not training. That's not stupidity (one assumes). That's disregard for the job."

And you know this because you've actually done the job?


Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 3, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Lesson:

they said it's not just to protect the officer. "It protects us -- 99.9 percent of the time, it shows that we're doing the right thing. That other 0.1 percent, when you screw up, you should be held accountable."

when you screw up, you should be held accountable."


Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 3, 2014 at 2:44 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

We have so many experts on the web that know absolutely very thing about law enforcement. Try doing the job. I will give you a hint, it is not as easy as our experts think it is. Menlo Voter is right. by the way, our expects know what happens when one assumes.


Posted by NoExcuses
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 3, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Body cams should be worn and fully-activated for the duration of an officer's 12-hour shift (breaks excepted).

1. Spares should be available for cameras in need of repair. Officers do not depart the station with malfunctioning revolvers. There is no reason for them to do so with non-working cameras. In fact, a spare camera could reasonably be stored in every police vehicle.

2. One excuse for the absence of cameras is that they must be round-tripped to Seattle for repair. If the vendor cannot arrange for local same-day repair, they should ship replacements via overnight express, a service that is routinely available for cellphones.

3. I am sure that our native son, Nick Woodman, and his GoPro company can build a small, lightweight, durable camera that records continuously for 12 hours. The company's most expensive models currently cost about $400 - probably less than a day's pay for an officer.

4. If battery life for continuous 12-hour recording is currently an insurmountable technical hurdle, or might cause an officer to carry too much battery weight, spare batteries can be carried in police cars and switched out during shifts.

We do not accept lame excuses from Apple, Samsung, LG, Nikon, Cannon, and other private sector tech companies which make imaging equipment, nor do we support non-tech companies that cannot successfully deploy important technology in their own day-to-day operations.

Only in the government sector do we accept the lame excuses proffered by the law enforcement agencies quoted above in the Almanac article. Let's simply give officers the tools to do their jobs.


Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Dec 3, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Agents of the state that have the potential to use deadly force against the public should ALWAYS have a camera recording while on duty.

No amount of dancing around or providing excuses please.


Posted by acomfort
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Dec 3, 2014 at 4:00 pm

David B. wrote: "Many of us who would be inclined to support our police, have been poisoned by the cases of outrageous behavior that come to light too often around the country."

The media stories point to where and how the police were trained as a cause of the outrageous behavior.
So, the question is, where are the Menlo Park police getting their training? We should know, it may make a difference. in the confidence of the MP public in their police force.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 3, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There has also been considerable discussion on what policies should govern the use of BWCs. Two very helpful reports on this are:

Web Link


Clearly when and how to use these cameras is not a simple issue and the report is well worth reading if you are interested in a fact based discussion.


Here are two interesting excerpts:

"Legitimacy in policing is built on trust. And the notion of video-recording every interac- tion in a very tense situation would simply not be a practical operational way of deliv- ering policing. In fact, it would exacerbate all sorts of problems. In the United Kingdom, we're also subject to human rights legislation, laws on right to privacy, right to family life, and I'm sure you have similar statutes. It's far more complicated than a blanket policy of 'every interaction is filmed.' I think that's far too simplistic. We have to give our officers some discretion. We cannot have a policy that limits discretion of officers to a point where using these devices has a negative effect on community-police relations."
– Sir Hugh Orde, President, Association of Chief Police Officers (UK)
********
"In Daytona Beach, Chief Chitwood requested that the officers with a history of complaints be among the first to be outfitted with body-worn cameras . Although he found that usually the videos demonstrated that "the majority of the officers are hardworking, good police," he has also seen how body-worn cameras can help an agency address discipline problems . Chitwood said:
We had an officer who had several questionable incidents in the past, so we outfitted him with a camera . Right in the middle of an encounter with a subject, the camera goes blank, and then it comes back on when the incident is over . He said that the camera malfunctioned, so we gave him another one . A week later he goes to arrest a woman, and again, the camera goes blank just before the encounter . He claimed again that the camera had malfunctioned . So we conducted a forensic review of the camera, which determined that the officer had intentionally hit the power button right before the camera shut off . Our policy says that if you turn it off, you're done . He resigned the next day ."

The second article is:

Web Link

Here is the current MPPD policy on BWC's:

Web Link

This document is strangely copy protected and you cannot cut and paste from it.

Frankly, I think the generic MPPD policy ( written by Lexipol) leaves a lot to be desired. For example, it mandates that all citizen contact recordings be saved for 2 1/2 years. And it has no obvious exception for interrogation of confidential informants.


Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 3, 2014 at 10:16 pm

It all boils down to trust and respect by the police and the citizens they serve in their community.

Let's put one more piece of equipment on our officers. Has anyone on this blog ever wore a police officer gun belt with all the equipment that is required for their safety and assignment. Pretty heavy!
Let's issue them a military ballistic vest and military helmet. Maybe this would be in order, many pockets, a lot of places to put things, safer, and a better distribution of weight. But, would this issued pieces of equipment offend our citizens they serve in their community?

This would include a recording device that the battery life would be about 3 hours...Does anyone know of one that has a longer battery life than 3 hours, currently in use today? I do not know of any devices on the market.
How about citizens wearing cameras..that might work for each..police and citizens will each have recordings to compare? What will be the storage time required for the citizen to keep these recordings? The police have state requirements for the retention of these records and recordings.

This topic has gotten way out of control, way out of the common sense measure.
Police officers are people. They come from a pool of a cross section of our society. Are there dishonest people in our society: yes…. Are there good and honest people in our society...yes

Police officers undertake a series of testing--screening to become an officer. A background check, that includes some type of polygraph, a medical exam, personal interviews of references, credit check, psychological testing, general aptitude/knowledge, fingerprinting, which includes a verification of all information on their application. Are there any suggestions to make this process better?

How many companies in the private sector have that screening process. Not many..

We need to make our local governmental bodies responsible. Here are some considerations for review.
Do we trust who our law enforcement managers hire as police officers?
Every law enforcement manager should be held personally responsible for their officers.
Every Law enforcement manager should make sure each of their officers have the tools needed to perform their duties in a professional and safe manner. This includes training…the community policing concept as outlined by the IACP. The police need to be an important shareholder in the community they patrol.
Elected officials should be held personally responsible for the individual they hire to manage their county or city that oversees their law enforcement function.


Posted by Max
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Dec 3, 2014 at 10:43 pm

The idea of cameras is on the face of it a good one. However, if I knew the officer's camera was on constantly, I might hesitate to speak to him or her. I have little trust in the confidentiality of police records and would have even less in a video recording.

One more comment. I'm disappointed at the thinly veiled antipathy toward the police that is evident in some of the above comments. For a change, how about some kudos for the good work the police do. The constant brick-bats must be demoralizing.


Posted by Lesson learned
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2014 at 10:46 pm

Enough says "It all boils down to trust and respect by the police and the citizens they serve in their community."

I don't mean to be rude, but that's just pablum. For example, police don't trust citizens, nor are they supposed to. If there were this trust, there wouldn't be a need for police.

You can choose to trust police, and will or will not primarily based on your own experience with them. Recordings are very effective at preventing police misconduct and the attendant citizen's complaints that follow. This has been proven. If the reaction is "stuff it, you just have to trust them," my response is the notion governmental authority cannot be questioned is not what this country is supposed to be about.


Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 4, 2014 at 6:58 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

"Recordings are very effective at preventing police misconduct and the attendant citizen's complaints that follow. This has been proven."

Do you have something factual to back this up? A link perhaps?

It is a chicken and egg thing. Do body worn cameras reduce complaints because officers don't commit misconduct when they're wearing them or are there fewer complaints because the people that would have made complaints without the video not do so because they know their misconduct has been recorded? That person can't cast aspersions in a "he said, he said" situation.

A long time ago when the police started using dash cams and other recording devices. Before the public really was aware of them, recordings often shut down citizen complaints because when someone came in to complain and the video was played and it showed that citizen being way out of line, it was the end of the complaint.

Menlo Park officers have welcomed the use of body worn cameras. The vast majority of them are good hard working cops that do a good job. Do the cameras sometimes not get turned on? Sure. It's a new piece of equipment. It's one more thing an officer has to build into his actions when he is dispatched and arrives at a call or initiates a citizen contact. Given time it will become second nature.

Battery life is a problem. MPPD management did not think things through as far as replacement batteries and back up units. It looks like it is being discussed now and they have already ordered back up cameras.

The people that want to pillory officers because they didn't turn on their cameras ought to go on a ride along. Until you see what is involved in doing the job you are speaking from a place of ignorance.


Posted by Memories
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2014 at 8:15 am

I find it ironic that people are still so worked up over this since it's been brought about by a criminal with a scary gun who allegedly used it in the middle of the day carrying out a stupid crime. Some of the officers involved having had complaints filed against them doesn't mean that they and the public weren't in danger when stupid criminal made a deadly, desperate move when confronted.

I'm relieved that the officer who shot the bad guy has only the public notoriety of driving that kid home and angering the kid's mom. I'm glad the bad guy is dead because the other options from the scenario HE CREATED are terrifying to contemplate. We all could be posting our condolences on an officer's injury or death, or expressing our sadness at the tragedy of a civilian getting injured or killed by the desperate, selfish criminal.

Isn't it nice to have the luxury of venting our spleens from the comfort of our pricey homes and from our (most likely, I'm betting) white privilege perspectives?

I'll wait for the results of the investigations before criticizing these officers. I hope Menlo residents are at least grateful they haven't had a Benaderet or a Verbera lately amongst their officers.


Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 4, 2014 at 8:25 am

Let's move on.....The DA of our county has the case. The police chief has cooperated with the investigation and was interviewed by the media. The feds would be looking around if there was some misconduct. Our police department is community involved ....a civilian advisory group. We are very lucky to have such an active dialog and communication between the police and the community. I thank you for what you do....

No I am not a police officer!


Posted by Lesson learned
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2014 at 11:23 am

Menlo Voter, here is a link that you requested:

Web Link

No one on the threads I've read has stated all police are bad, etc. My position is that just some are, and since those bad apples have the potential to exact devastating harm on members of the public, there is nothing unreasonable about body cameras being required to protect the public. There is also a culture of all officers, good or bad, protecting the bad apples.


Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 4, 2014 at 11:28 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

lesson:

thanks for the link. I'm not advocating officers not wear cameras. I think they should. My concern is that some on these boards would fire an officer for forgetting to turn on his or her camera. That is simply over the top. A better solution is provide batteries that will last a full shift or provide cameras that the batteries can be swapped out in and provide more batteries.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 4, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

What is needed is a culture of trust and transparency. Technology can provide tools like body cams but the much more important issue is how to create a culture wherein the police deserve and enjoy the trust and transparency of those whom they serve. That culture will not be created by starting with the assumptions that the police are the enemy or that there are no bad cops.


Posted by Bad memories
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Dec 4, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Glad the bad guy is dead?! Bad memories,
seriously, that's whack.

The criminal justice system doesn't allow for cops to execute the bad guys in this country.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 4, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The criminal justice system doesn't allow for cops to execute the bad guys in this country."

Exactly what protocol are you recommending for a police officer confronted by a suspect who pulls out a gun? Negotiation? Compromise?


Posted by cw
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 4, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Contrast these two statements in the story:

"Mr. Mueller, who had led the effort to formulate a privacy ordinance for the city's use of automated license plate readers, questioned the retention policy."

"Cmdr. Bertini said the department is not open to discussing a shorter retention time for camera video"

Now I recall how upset Bertini was when council, led by Mueller, wanted to make it a crime to misuse data the department collects. Bertini's manner was down right threatening. Now he's saying that a department policy is not open to discussion.

I think Bertini has forgotten that the police answer to the city manager who answers to the council. The police shouldn't be setting their own policy. It should always go through council. And if Bertini doesn't like having civilian control of the department, he should find new employment.


Posted by Memories
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Bad memories - were you being deliberately obtuse about my statement, or you're truly obtuse about what I meant?


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