San Antonio Police Test Wearable Cameras in Pilot Program

July 17, 2014

San Antonio police are testing the use of wearable body cameras but have yet to release policies for the pilot program.

The city’s police department launched the six-month program with 150 cameras in March and said it will review the project later this year to determine if it should be permanently adopted.

“Cameras have the potential to be a win-win, helping protect the public against police misconduct and at the same time helping protect police against false accusations of abuse,” a 2013 American Civil Liberties Union policy brief said. But, the brief added, the cameras will be beneficial only if they are guided by policies.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, the city said it will not release the project’s policies, because they are in draft form.

Police Chief William McManus discussed the project with the city council in March, explaining the periods of recording would be up to the officers wearing the cameras. Officers were told they should start recording when they see suspicious or criminal activity or make contact with a citizen. Conversations with confidential informants or undercover officers would not be logged. Residents would not be notified when they are being recorded.

The police department said it will work with the officers union to make recommendations to the chief about using the technology after the project ends.

Mike Helle, president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association, questioned whether the department should be exploring new technology. He said existing technology within the department was not working, citing a patrol car video system. He said that has caused frustration among officers who have experienced system crashes and errors with the technology.

:We can’t even get that system to function properly,” he said.

In January, McManus told the city council the department would work on its policy with a national group called the Police Executive Research Forum. That organization has been working with the U.S. Justice Department to come up with guidelines for using body cameras.

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