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San Mateo, CA Police Department
Thursday February 8th, 2018 :: 01:38 p.m. PST


San Mateo Police Department Moves Forward with Body Worn Cameras

As we start the new year, the San Mateo Police Department is excited to announce our implementation of an exciting new initiative designed to increase transparency, accountability, credibility and evidence collection. All of our San Mateo Police Officers are now equipped with Body Worn Cameras (BWC) and they will be capturing our critical contacts and responses to crime and critical incidents. 

After a yearlong planning and research process, including several months of beta-testing devices from three different vendors, SMPD received approval from City Council to contract with Axon. This well-established vendor will provide cameras as well as digital evidence collection systems that are based on strict criteria and ease of use. After a further months-long agency-specific development and pilot trial, we are now at full implementation. You may notice our officers wearing their cameras (picture attached,) mounted either on their chest or helmet for motor officers. These devices will record as deemed necessary and in accordance with policy.

BWC’s give our officers the ability to document their daily professional conduct, improve their ability to gather excellent evidence for investigations, and promote our department-wide philosophy of transparency. We are already finding it extremely helpful for reviewing incidents the community may have concerns over, and our officers have embraced the project wholly as it is a critical opportunity to accurately capture incidents. We expect greatly improved digital evidence captured with these devices that will also assist with successful investigations and prosecution of crimes.

“This is an exciting moment for our department and our City as we move forward with our 21st Century Policing Initiatives. There is a reason why over half of police departments nationwide are moving towards this BWC technology. It benefits our community, benefits our department and officers, as well as benefits our ability to capture digital evidence and further prosecution. It’s a win-win and my thanks to our staff, supporting departments and City Council for putting this important tool in our officers’ hands.” said San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer.

Check out our video on Youtube 

If you have any questions about our Body Worn Camera Program, don’t hesitate to stop and chat with one of our officers. You can also contact Sergeant Amanda Von Glahn at [email protected]

Below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions: 
1. What is a body worn camera and where will officers mount it? 
A body worn camera is a small camera mounted on the uniform of a police officer which will objectively record interactions between law enforcement officers and citizens. The cameras will either be mounted on the center of the officer chest or on the helmet of our traffic officers.

2. What is the brand of body worn camera used by San Mateo Police? 
The brand of camera is Axon which is made by Taser International.

3. When is an officer required to turn the body worn camera on? 
With few exceptions officers will be required to record all law enforcement related contacts with the public.

4. Will all police interactions be recorded? 
What if someone does not want to be recorded? With few exceptions officers will be required to record all law enforcement related contacts with the public. There will be some exceptions, e.g. crime victims, where obtaining the statement from the victim outweighs the need to have the encounter recorded.

5. Are officers required to tell citizens they are being video recorded? 
Officers are not required to advise citizens they are being recorded, but it will be our practice to alert citizens when practical that they are being recorded.

6. Can an officer record inside a private residence? 
Yes, under the following circumstances: (1) if there is a valid warrant; (2) consent from the resident; or (3) if there is a legal exception for the police to enter a dwelling. Absent those legal circumstances, if a resident does not consent to entry, officers will not enter the home absent a warrant or exigent circumstances. If consent is given, the body cameras will remain on absent a specific policy exemption.

7. Can anyone edit the video? 
The original version of the video cannot be edited by anyone, including system administrators. Redacted copies of the videos to blur people/objects, remove audio, and narrow the video to relevant sections can be created by authorized users. The original version the video will remain unchanged.

8. Can anyone delete a video? 
Videos can be deleted either though an automated retention system based upon the type of incident recorded or manually by a system administrator. Manual deletions will only be done after a criminal case is adjudicated in a court of law or if a recording was accidentally made in a location restricted by policy, such as a restroom. Manual deletions of accidental recordings will require command staff approval.

9. How long will the videos be retained?
Non-evidential videos will be retained based upon the current California Records Retention Schedule. Evidential videos will be retained until the criminal case is adjudicated in a court of law or the statute of limitations has passed.

10. Who can obtain a copy of the body worn camera video? 
The release of recordings to any person shall be made in accordance with current department policy and procedures, and pursuant to requirements of applicable law, including but not limited to the California Records Act.

11. Why shouldn’t all video recorded by police by made available to the public? 
One of the most critical issues for people interacting with police is privacy. People often need to seek police assistance when they are going through difficult personal challenges. Certain groups of citizens have strong specific privacy protections – particularly juveniles. Victims also have privacy protections in the law, in particular to protect them from the offender. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) law for law enforcement records was developed for paper documents and never contemplated the complexities of protecting privacy in video and audio recording.

12. How does the BWC program increase police accountability if the public cannot see the videos? 
Videos will increase accountability by recording interactions from start to finish and being available to those involved in the incident, partners in the criminal and civil justice system, and any government agency that investigate the police.

13. Does the department have plans to use facial recognition technology with the video from the body cameras? 
The department does not have any current plans to use facial recognition technology in connection with body camera video.

San Mateo, CA Police Department
200 Franklin Pkwy
San Mateo, CA 94403

Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 650-522-7700

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