President Obama is pushing for national expansion of body cameras on police officers in the wake of civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo. In Alhambra, the police department began experimenting with cameras long before a police officer shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, in Missouri.
Alhambra began testing individual cameras on motor officers two years ago, said Sgt. Jerry Johnson of Alhambra PD. Now Alhambra PD is moving forward on its own camera policy, researching possibly equipping field officers with similar devices, according to Alhambra’s recently approved Strategic Plan. Police Chief Mark Yokoyama will present by May 1, 2015 to City Manager Mary Swink a plan detailing the benefits, challenges, and costs of using body cameras on all Alhambra field officers.
While the camera study is not a result of the Brown shooting, Alhambra PD aims to increase public trust with the technology, according to Johnson.
"We're always considering new technology to improve our policing," Johnson said. “The primary purpose for the implementation of individual cameras would be for better transparency, professionalism, building community trust, protection from false claims, and as a training tool."
After Brown's death, police departments throughout the country have implemented the use of body cameras while in the field. Departments in Anaheim, Denver, Miami Beach, Washington, D.C., and even Ferguson have experimented with body cameras since the shooting, Time reports.
Body cameras have been shown to help decrease the rate of force used by officers and the number of complaints against officers, according to the New York Times. In the first year of their use in Rialto, Calif.—where field officers have used body cameras since 2012—complaints against officers fell by 88 percent and the use of force by officers fell by almost 60 percent over a 12-month period, according to the Times.
Following a grand jury's decision on Nov. 24 not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the Ferguson shooting, Brown's family released a statement urging police departments to implement body cameras for field officers. "We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen," the statement reads. "Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera."