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Santa Monica Police to Start Wearing Body Cameras
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

August 25, 2016 -- Joining Los Angeles police and a rising number of other law enforcement forces, the Santa Monica Police Department announced Tuesday some officers and civilian personnel will be outfitted with body worn cameras on the job next month.

Beginning September 12, “select” members of the SMPD will use the body worn cameras (BWC) as part of a six-month pilot project," said Lt. Saul Rodriquez, a spokesperson.

“The introduction of BWC technology will assist the Police Department in collecting documentary evidence for criminal investigations and administrative investigations,” the SMPD said in a statement.

SMPD officials did not disclose how many body cameras will be distributed.

The department is working with researchers from California State University Fullerton to collect and analyze the BWC data, which will supplement in-car audio/video recorders SMPD officers have used for years, he said.

Santa Monica police also are asking the public to take a survey about the use of BWC technology. The surveys -- both in English and Spanish -- can be found at www.santamonicapd.org/bodyworncamera. More information is available by calling the BWC Information line, at (310) 458-8400.

Body cameras for law enforcement have been more widely used since the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and the continuing unrest over excessive police force, particularly against African Americans. The devices are viewed as a way to improve accountability and build community trust.

Hit by repeated claims of excessive force, Los Angeles City in June approved body cameras for police. The five-year, $57.6-million plan will purchase and distribute 7,000 of the devices by 2017.

Santa Monica, which is mostly white and well off, does not typically deal with such issues in its community. A 2015 staff report on the BWC program said the City was interested now primarily because of improvements in the technology.

But news surfaced last summer that a rollout of body cameras would begin in the near future -- just four months after an African-American man accused officers of excessive force during his arrest at a local park as he tried to charge his electric car ("Attorney Claims “Super-Aggressive” Santa Monica Officers Roughed Up Client," April 29, 2015).

Justin Palmer, then 36, filed a suit against the SMPD alleging two officers confronted him as he tried to charge his electric vehicle at one of the park's charging stations. They then handcuffed him and made him fall face down on the pavement, he said.

After Palmer’s April 21 arrest, Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks and City Manager Rick Cole met with local NAACP and Committee for Racial Justice members and others, fielding more complaints of excessive force and racial profiling ("Santa Monica Police Chief Responds to Residents’ Racial Profiling Complaints," June 1, 2015).


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