There is another San Francisco Police Commission hearing this afternoon on SFPD officers wearing body cameras. There may be additional opportunities for public comment on Dec. 2 and Dec. 5 when the draft policy is finalized and voted on, but it's important the public keep up the pressure to get a good policy on this from the get-go.
More details in Alan's message below. In general I agree with his analysis, though I think I favor limiting officers' ability to watch the video footage prior to writing their reports more than he does. Multiple speakers at the last Police Commission made what I found to be a very persuasive argument -- if an officer decides after viewing a video that his/her initial police report was inaccurate, s/he can always file a supplemental report. I believe using this approach would have a tendency to make officers more conscientious about being fair and accurate in their reports in the first place, and less likely to put as much self-serving spin on events.
There are also additional areas of concern in the draft policy, as mentioned by a representative from the Public Defenders Office and others. Three important ones that come to mind:
(1) The lack of requirements for public disclosure of the video footage by the SFPD -- both media and the public should have prompt, full access except when a suspect or member of the public on the footage lodges a valid written objection to such disclosure on privacy grounds (e.g. officers inside someone's home, etc.)
(2) The lack of "teeth" in the rules for when body cameras must be turned on, etc. (specific minimum penalties for officers violating the rules need to be established)
(3) The provision allowing a supervising officer to order a subordinate to turn off a camera, without specifying under what conditions such an order may lawfully be given
Again the draft policy can be viewed at http://sanfranciscopolice.org/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=27507 .
Love & Liberty,
((( starchild )))
From: "Alan Frame" <alan@...>
Date: November 3, 2015 12:35:43 PM PST
To: "Chelsea" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <bruce@...>, "Starchild" <sfdreamer@...>
Cc: <tdarcangelew@...>, <mcallahan@...>
Subject: FW: November 4 Meeting and Body Camera Policy
I’m hoping you can all make it to the next Policed Commission meeting, tomorrow at 5:30 in Room 400 (4th floor) in City Hall. As descibed below, it will include a discussion and public comment on the body cam issue – again. Here’s a link to the agenda:
I’d thought at the last meeting they’d said a decision would be made at the November 4th meeting, but I’m glad it’s been delayed since now there is specific mention of proposed changes to the existing draft policy. I think our comments should be pretty much the same as last time, proposing (1) a limited no-preview policy, in cases of alleged excess use of force or other misconduct, and (2) a more specific provision for release of body cam footage to the public. All this commenting may seem to be redundant self-parroting but I think it’s important to keep the issue visible and show that we are being persistent.
Note that although this meeting starts earlier than the last one, there are a few agenda items before Body Cams, so it should be OK to arrive late if you have to.
I did some research into the voluntary-statement issue. Tessa of ACLUNC says it’s known as a “Lybarger agreement.” I googled it and it’s based on a court case, Lybarger vs. City of LA. But I couldn’t get a firm grasp of what it would mean to body cam viewing policies. Maybe Bruce, Esq. can shed some light – here are two links:
My best, amateur take on it is: If there is an allegation of misconduct and an officer isn’t allowed to see the video before making a statement or report, s/he may opt to not make a statement or report. If this is the gist of the issue, it seems to me to be pretty minor since if something went/looked wrong they’d probably be unwilling to give a statement anyway. That is, there wouldn’t seem to be too many cases where willingness to give a statement truly would be dependent on being able to preview the video. That’s just my take – if anyone else has another interpretation of this, or any other ideas, please let us know. Regardless, Tessa says even if the Lybarger implications are unclear to us it is something the Commission has been concerned about. So at least in that sense at it’s nontrivial.
However the Lybarger consideration pans out, it’s important to make a good show of support for the proposed changes. So I hope to see you all there.
Chelsea, please forward this to Rebecca and try to get her to come too.
PS Optional: Drinks & recap afterwards at Hotspot on Market (2.5 blocks away).
From: SFPD, Commission (POL) [mailto:SFPD.Commission@…]
Sent: Tuesday, November 03, 2015 8:31 AM
To: Alan Frame
Subject: RE: November 4 Meeting and Body Camera Policy
Thank you for your email. Yes, there will be general public comment and public comment after the discussion. There will be no action taken on Nov 4th. The vote regarding the policy is scheduled for the meeting of December 2nd.
Nov 4th meeting will be for discussion which may result in revision/modification of the draft policy.
Dec 5th meeting will be to vote to adopt the draft policy.
San Francisco Police Commission
1245 Third Street, 6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
From: Alan Frame [mailto:alan@…]
Sent: Sunday, November 01, 2015 7:34 PM
To: SFPD, Commission (POL) <SFPD.Commission@…>
Subject: November 4 Meeting and Body Camera Policy
I see that a discussion of the proposed Body Camera Policy is on the agenda for the November 4 meeting. Can you tell me:
(1) Will there be an opportunity for public comments on this issue (that is, other than general public comments as the first item on the agenda)?
(2) Will there be an actual vote on the proposed policy at this meeting?
a. If so, will it be a simple yes/no vote to adopt the policy, or could it result in tabling the issue, proposing modifications, scheduling more disc ussions, etc.?
b. If it is a yes/no vote, and the outcome is No, what happens next?
Thanks for your help with this.
My post on the last Police Commission hearing [slightly edited to update my errors on some of those in attendance] is below. Also here's the link to the video: