Livermore Police Department latest in Bay Area to adopt body cameras

LIVERMORE, Calif. (KTVU) -- Livermore is taking a step toward transparency and accountability for its police by outfitting every officer with a body camera.

Police officials tell KTVU that 87 cameras made by Taser International, have been purchased for patrol officers all the way up to the chief.

"I think it's going to greatly assist us," said Officer Ryan Sanchez. "I can articulate in my police report how facts happen but the video evidence speaks for itself."

KTVU recently rode along with Officer Sanchez to see the body camera in action.

The Livermore Police Department has created a set of policy guidelines outlining the instances when the cameras should be turned on.

There are eight of them, including when responding to 911 calls, conducting probation searches and traffic stops.

The cameras capture both audio and video evidence.

"I think it's a great tool," said Officer Sanchez. "As an agency, it shows our transparency and will allow us to better document facts that go into a case."

Once contact with a person ends, the officers stop the camera from recording, but in reality, the camera is always on.

It has a pre-record feature. Once the camera is activated, it will go back 30 seconds showing events before the officer pushed the record button.

The idea is that every step of every police-public interaction, from the mundane to those involving deadly force gets captured.

One woman who approached Officer Sanchez to complain of speeding drivers said she didn't mind being recorded.

"I think it's nice to see both sides of the story," she told KTVU.

The cameras are designed to protect police and citizens. The videos can catch bad cops and clear good ones who are falsely accused.

Just like any other evidence, department policy prohibits the videos from being shared.

Still, there are concerns about how much access to and control of the videos officers have.

"Officers have the ability to watch the videos that they have recorded themselves other than that, they can not alter or change the videos in any way," said Officer Sanchez.

At the end of each shift, officers put their camera and battery pack back on a docking station.

All of the recorded footage collected from the cameras is automatically uploaded to a cloud-based storage and management system called evidence.com.

That's where the Livermore footage remains for at least 3 years, unless it's a homicide or sex crime, and those videos will be stored forever.

Deploying this technology isn't cheap; The units cost about a $1,000 per officer and it's $40,000 a year to store the data.

The White House is calling for $75 million in federal grants to help departments nationwide equip officers with cameras.

Livermore Officer Sanchez told KTVU he's excited about the technology. 

"I've always considered myself being recorded in the eye of the public and now I am," said Sanchez. But not only are we recording our actions, we're recording the actions of others."

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