Ever since the numbers came in from Rialto, this idea of police cameras has been intriguing us. Some folks love the idea and think all cops should be filmed at all times, which is understandable. Others have brought up concerns about police and their cameras being used for extrajudicial surveillance, an intrusion on the right to due process. Others have questioned where the demand for cameras comes from. In Rialto it was certainly the result of scandal, and taken advantage of by shrewd police politickers. In Chino, it seems to be more of a giveaway to Arizona-based TAZER Corporation, which manufactures lapel and goggle cameras. Aren't we still boycotting Arizona for their racist laws?
At any rate, the voices within CopWatch IE arguing for a campaign for cameras for Riverside PD prevailed, precisely because the campaign is grassroots and community-based. We have had meetings about it before, but this is the campaign's first public action. We got a little bit of coverage from the Press-Enterprise!
RIVERSIDE: Activist seeks body cameras on officers' uniforms
Cameras would provide transparency and accountability, police accountability group says.
BY BRIAN ROKOS / STAFF WRITER
Published: June 4, 2014 Updated: June 5, 2014 11:00 a.m.
A police accountability group believes that mounting video cameras on police officers’ uniforms would reduce the number of encounters that leave citizens dead.
Copwatch IE plans to stage rallies each month in the Inland Empire to urge law enforcement agencies to adopt the plan that has worked successfully in Rialto. That Police Department reduced uses of force by officers by 50 percent, and it received 10 times fewer complaints by citizens in the 12 months since officers there began wearing the cameras in 2012.
The first such rally was held Wednesday, June 4, on the Main Street mall at University Avenue in Riverside. The organizer, Meghann Horton, 29, previously participated in protests of the killing by Fullerton police of homeless man Kelly Thomas. The content of video and audio tapes of the incident led to criminal charges against the officers, who were acquitted in court.
Copwatch IE members said they believe too many people die in encounters with police. The cameras, they said, would make police aware that their actions are being documented.
“Cameras provide transparency and accountability to the police and protect them against wrongful claims,” Horton said.
Chanting “Make all cops” followed by “wear cameras” to the beat of a bongo drum, seven Copwatch IE members sought attention to their cause Wednesday. Some motorists honked. A couple of passers-by booed.
The ralliers held signs that read “Film the Police,” “Demand Accountability,” and “Bad Cop No Donut” at the Main Street mall at University Avenue.
Horton said she didn’t have a specific beef against Riverside police, but with it being her hometown, she thought it would be a good place to start.
Riverside Assistant Police Chief Chris Vicino said Wednesday that the department has discussed body cameras, but for now it is satisfied with its patrol cars’ video cameras and the audio recorders that officers wear on their belts. The department recently spent $750,000 to upgrade the video cameras, Vicino said.
“The department hasn’t done any research … to look at the body cams of yet, but as we look into the future, five years out, we recognize that this may be the wave of the future,” Vicino said.
Horton wrote a thesis for her bachelor’s degree in history at Cal Poly Pomona on how activists use technology such as video sharing and social media websites to fight against police brutality. Horton said she has not sought meetings with police but said she plans to.