Sunday, June 16

San Francisco Police Commission Debates Body Camera Regulations Following Deadly Shooting

A police car rushes to the emergency call with lights turned onAfter a fatal shooting in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, the city has voted on a crucial issue that could change the way police handle dangerous situations.

The shooting took place near Third Street and Paul Avenue around 4:50 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 2. The suspect, a man in his 20s, was involved in an earlier stabbing near the area and had not responded to demands to drop his weapon.

Before shooting the suspect, police had fired a standard bean bag gun several times, according to police Chief Greg Suhr.

“This suspect had already shown by committing a felony aggravated assault that he was a danger to others, so he could not be allowed to move away from the scene,” Suhr told CBS San Francisco reporters.

A bystander caught the shooting on a cell phone camera and uploaded the footage to Instagram. However, the incident was not filmed on police body cameras, as those won’t be required until sometime in 2016.

That evening, however, the San Francisco Police Commission approved a draft policy on how police body cameras can be used and when the officers wearing them can review footage.

One issue covered in the meeting included prohibiting officers from reviewing footage before writing their incident reports, especially in the cases of office-involved shootings.

The commission, along with San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, off-duty officers, and members of the public, also discussed matters such as when the footage can viewed and when the cameras can be turned off.

“I believe that it is important that officers have the ability to review footage in the field,” says Jubal Ragsdale, President, 10-8 Video. “This is not only for accuracy in reporting, but the ability to sort out who said/did what in daily non shooting incidents as well. Body cameras are critical to have in today’s society, but department policies must balance their benefits for the officer as well as the public.”

Several SFPD members, who attended the meeting off-duty, said that they felt prohibiting officers from viewing footage displayed a lack of trust in the police force.

Officers also argued that reviewing the footage would help them to better improve their accuracy in writing such reports.

Elia Lewin-Tankel, an officer from Mission Station, said at the meeting that the restrictions would “create a divisiveness that I don’t think is necessary. There’s enough division at this point.”

SFPD officer John Evans concurred. “When I was just a little baby police officer, I was told that I shall, I must review every available evidence before making a report,” he said.

Addressing the commission, Evans told them, “If you don’t trust me, I’ll go… [But] It’s patently ridiculous not to review evidence.”

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