San Jose officers to begin testing body cameras

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - Starting Monday, 15 San Jose police officers will begin testing body-worn cameras.

After two previous attempts, the police department hopes to increase police accountability and build community trust at a time when it's been under fire recently for racial profiling.

Two officers who are volunteering to test three different types of body-worn cameras for the next 12 weeks modeled the cameras Wednesday. Officer Christian Camarillo wore a camera mounted on his chest.

"We're usually guilty until proven innocent," said Camarillo. "With this, there's not going to be two versions of a story anymore. Everything is going to be captured."

Another officer modeled a point of view camera that's mounted with a magnetic clip and can be worn through protective eyeglasses or a hat. Officers can download an app and watch the video real time on their smart phone.

Body-worn cameras were tested back in 2009 and 2012. San Jose Police said this time is different with the full commitment from city leaders and the police union for the estimated $1 million program.

"We thought body cameras should be implemented a long time ago," said Raj Jayadev of Silicon Valley Debug.

Jayadev questions what he sees is the policy's lack of transparency, when officers have to activate and deactivate the cameras and if and when citizens can review the footage following an officer complaint.

"By no means do we think that body cameras is the panacea to policing community relations," said Jayadev. "We think it's a piece in a larger puzzle to help us move forward as a city."

"While the camera is an important tool," said Sgt. Elle Washburn of San Jose Police, "I think at the same time we have professional officers and we need to allow them to have some discretion on how they perform their job."

San Jose Police contend the policy is evolving. In other cities like Oakland where cameras are used, use of force and citizen complaints have significantly gone down.

"Do I have bad days? Do I make mistakes? Absolutely," said Camarillo. "We are human. I welcome this and I really can't wait to start using it."

San Jose Police hope to outfit every officer with a camera next year.