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Political Gumbo: Read the Staff Reports; Get the Cameras

Published on Tuesday, November 30, 2021 | 5:00 am

It seems like more and more this column is dedicated to a simple City Council 101 course.

On Monday, several callers called in to Monday’s meeting calling on the City Council to vote down a contract extension on body-worn cameras.

One caller claimed that anyone voting on the item must be getting kickbacks from the police union. That makes absolutely no sense. Body-worn cameras are a tool to hold police accountable, makes so sense that the so-called police union would give kickbacks to the Pasadena City Council to favor them.

Staying on the nonsensical tip, the people who said the cameras don’t work because one of the officers in the Anthony McClain shooting did not turn on his camera did not read the staff report.

“The newer version of the body-worn cameras has the capability to automatically activate when a firearm is removed from its holster, which will ensure the body-worn camera is activated during a critical incident,” according to the staff report.

You have to read the report and educate yourself, if you expect your comments to move the elected officials one way or another.

Others claim that body-worn cameras don’t stop shootings.

According to NPR, the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the Council on Criminal Justice’s Task Force on Policing, the key benefit of body-worn cameras is the reduced use of police force. For example, among the police departments studied, complaints against police dropped by 17% and the use of force by police, during fatal and non-fatal encounters, fell by nearly 10%.

Also, if it were not for video footage from police cruisers and body-worn cameras, the public would have never seen the Anthony McClain footage or the first part of the Christopher Ballew footage (the second half of the footage was recorded by a passerby).

Cameras are an accountability tool. If you take them away, you take away one brick in the accountability wall.

Also when the inevitable next officer-involved shooting happens — and it will— the same people yelling and screaming get rid of the cameras will be screaming for the release of footage.

How do I know?

It already happened.

After the footage of all critical police incidents was removed from the city’s website at the insistence of the same people who say they oppose the contract, the same people then began screaming the city was hiding the footage.

Body-worn cameras keep both the police and local residents accountable during encounters with the police.

When the city established the body worn camera policy in 2016, my point then was not the camera, but transparency.

So far, the city has gone above and beyond in transparency.

In the case of the most recent critical incidents, the City Manager and the Police Chief have released video footage, including body-worn camera footage, well ahead of the 45-day state deadline.

The release of that information has allowed every local resident, journalist and City Councilmember to take part in important conversations.

You may not see a gun, and you may think officers acted inappropriately, but you saw the footage and that’s what is important. The accountability.

You can’t have it both ways, either you want police accountability or you don’t.

Body-worn camera footage from the George Floyd incident showed the horrific murder of the Minneapolis motorist and was used by attorneys seeking a guilty verdict against former police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder and manslaughter trial.

In the end the contract extension was held Monday so that more questions could be answered.

Understand this, the delay means that the department will continue to use cameras that they can manually turn on and off even when they draw their weapons.

That’s not good.

We need the new cameras.

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