Friday, July 22, 2016
[Monterey County] Grand jury outlines body camera use
As interactions between law enforcement and the public continue to be debated across the nation, the Monterey County Civil Grand Jury’s final report released on Monday includes analysis of Monterey County law enforcement’s use of body-worn cameras.
The popularity of police body-worn cameras arose in response to viral cell phone video of officers across the nation over the past few years. These cameras can provide insight into the police officers’ perspective, “when appropriately used, respond to public demands for greater law enforcement transparency” and require officers to be more conscious of their conduct, according to the report.
Given how new the topic is, there have been varied ongoing discussion as to how body-worn police cameras will be used and handled by law enforcement agencies, the report notes.
There are 15 local law enforcement agencies, and six of them -- Greenfield, Gonzales, King City, Monterey Regional Airport, Salinas and Soledad police departments -- use body-worn cameras on a daily basis and have adopted written policies to guide their use.
However, none of the written policies adopted by local agencies comply with recently enacted California law pertaining to body-worn camera policy provisions, according to the report.
Before that law was enacted, law enforcement agencies in California implemented their body-worn camera policy without guidance. The report notes that it’s possible that local policy revisions are now being considered by the various agencies.
Del Rey Oaks and Monterey police departments are buying body-worn cameras.
The remaining seven agencies are not using them at this time, but of those, six are in favor and plan to buy them at some time in the future. The report lists only one agency, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, as remaining “uncommitted to their eventual use,” according to the report.
It goes on to say that the sheriff’s office is considering them, would need to consider funding, related storage capacity, work through issues with the police union and more, but it may obtain them within two to five years.
However, MCSO Cmdr. John Thornburg said on Monday that it’s not accurate to say that the agency is not committed to use of body-worn cameras.
He added that MCSO has had 10 cameras for about two years as it goes through testing and related considerations. The only reason sheriff’s office doesn’t have them is lack of funding, and the agency is actively seeking funding options for the cameras, Thornburg continued.
The Salinas Police Department adopted and put its body-worn cameras to use in mid-2015. The cameras are routinely worn by all patrol officers and sergeants as well as supervisors when they are in uniform.
The civil grand jury report describes its program as the “most sophisticated” body-worn camera system in Monterey County. The Salinas Police Department’s policy is more detailed than other local law enforcement agencies.
“As with many law enforcement agencies, the policy allows for officer review of a recording before writing the corresponding incident report, and the policy only requires event recording under specified circumstances rather (than) continuously,” the report reads.
Much of the recommendations include advising law enforcement agencies that don’t already use body worn cameras to seek funding as next part budget cycle, and all of the agencies are advised to confer with their legal counsel to ensure that their existing policy complies with state law.
The 2015-2016 Monterey County Civil Grand Jury Final Report also touched on topics including the rates homeless women in Monterey County, groundwater issues, a sewage spill in Pacific Grove, rehabilitative programs for inmates at the Correctional Training Facility and more.
July 12, 2016
The Salinas Californian
By Chelcey Adami