Thursday, July 28, 2016

[Monterey County] Salinas chief says grand jury incorrectly read law

Salinas >> While a report from the Monterey County civil grand jury states none of the local law enforcement agencies’ policies on body-worn cameras meet California legal requirements, Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin says that finding was based on an incorrect reading of state law.
The report, which investigates the increasing use of body-worn cameras by police in Monterey County, cites California Penal Code Section 832.18, enacted into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2015.
“Their recommendations that say that nobody complies with state law, that’s wrong,” McMillin said before explaining the wording of the penal code.
The report’s recommendations state the police chief in Salinas, and the other six police departments in the county to use body-worn cameras (Monterey Regional Airport, King City, Greenfield, Gonzales and Soledad), “shall meet with the department’s legal counsel as soon as the meeting can be arranged to review the legal sufficiency of the department’s existing body-worn camera policy and to revise the policy to include, at a minimum, the ‘best practices’ set forth in California Penal Code 832.18.”
While the addition to the California Penal Code lists a series of best practices, it doesn’t state they are mandatory.
“When establishing policies and procedures for the implementation and operation of a body-worn camera system, law enforcement agencies, departments, or entities shall consider the following best practices regarding the downloading and storage of body-worn camera data,” the section states, before listing best practices.
McMillin said all agencies are following the law as long as they consider the best practices put forth by the penal code.
“We did consider all of those things so we are in compliance with the law,” he said.
Some of the best practices spelled out in the penal code include designating the person responsible for downloading the recorded data from the body-worn camera, establishing when data should be downloaded, creating measures to prevent tampering and specifically stating the length of time that recorded data are to be stored.
McMillin said the department and the city met with legal counsel and followed best practices in the crafting of its policy.
“We already have a very robust policy, our lawyers were involved in all of that, and there’s no more modification that has to happen,” he said.
Civil grand jury reports contain findings and recommendations, but the grand jury has no enforcement teeth to ensure that its suggestions are carried out.
As laws evolve with the technology, McMillin said the department will be ready to adjust to remain compliant, he said.
Salinas purchased the cameras last spring and McMillin said as with any new technology there can be a learning curve. He said the officers input metadata to connect video to specific incidents. If the officer ends up doing traffic control, they might not input that information because the belief that the video would be of little use.
“So then we’ll get a request from the defense going, ‘Hey, this officer is listed in the report as being attached to the call. Where’s his video?’ And because the officer knew it was worthless, they didn’t ascribe any metadata to it and we’ll have to go back and do this laborious search,” McMillin said.
McMillin said the department is trying to get its officers to always log the data, but those are the only types of issues McMillin said he’s run into.
According to McMillin, the body-worn camera program is meeting the department’s expectations. He said officers are using the cameras as a tool to take notes and investigate. While McMillin said the cameras are typically thought of as tools for documenting use of force and human interactions, his officers are getting creative to think of ways they can assist them in their work.
“They’re using their cameras to record positions of vehicles at accident scenes,” he said as an example.
July 15, 2016
Monterey County Herald
By Tommy Wright

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