Some SLO Police Department officers will begin wearing body cameras as part of a pilot program, department officials announced Sept. 15.
The program will deploy 10 body-mounted video cameras on various members of the department’s police force. Acting Police Chief Keith Storton said a variety of personnel would use the cameras in their daily work, including the department’s bicycle, motorcycle, and patrol officers.
“This is a fresh, new program,” Storton said.
Currently, the department utilizes some audio and video recording technology. Its vehicles have been equipped with cameras for more than 15 years. Storton said the body cameras would be used to document evidence, capture interviews, and could also be used to resolve citizen complaints. Officers will be required to activate the cameras during all enforcement and investigative stops.
“This tool, when used wisely and in conjunction with other information and resources, will be a valuable addition to the complex and demanding roles expected of our law enforcement professionals,” a department press release stated.
Storton said the department has experimented with body cameras in the past. This time around, the pilot program’s effectiveness will be evaluated by a working group consisting of department officials, SLO city staff, and representatives from the SLO County District Attorney’s Office. If the program is successful, the department will consider asking for funding to fully outfit its officers with body cameras. Storton noted that one of the considerations for the program was the cost to record and store the hours of data collected by the cameras.
“It’s evidence, and it would be our responsibility,” he said. “If we do go with [body cameras], we have to make sure we have the capacity to store that video.”
If the pilot is successful, Storton said the department could look into using grant money to buy the cameras. In May, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a $20 million Body-Worn Camera (BWC) Pilot Partnership Program for local and tribal law enforcement agencies.