The Burlingame Police Department plans to implement the use of body cameras on all street officers by the end of October due to growing local and national concerns about police force.
“We don’t have a problem with citizen complaints or big city problems,” Lieutenant Robert Boll said. “They are mainly to capture evidence and protect the citizens and officers.”
The decision to start using body cameras comes at the recommendation of the 2015-2016 San Mateo County Grand Jury. The jury investigated the issue and wrote a report urging that all San Mateo County towns approve a plan to implement the use of body worn cameras (BWC’s) by Nov. 20, 2016 and start actually using them by Oct. 31, 2017. The BPD started training officers to use the cameras on Sept. 19.
The BPD adopted a 5-year agreement with Taser International Inc. to equip officers with Axon Body 2 cameras and storage. The BWC clip onto an officer’s pocket or belt with a strong magnet and will be worn at all times by uniformed non-administrative police officers.
While the cameras are always on, they are not always saving the video, Officer Heather Rumbaugh, the school resource officer, said. In order to record, officers must press a button on the camera which will capture video from the previous few moments up until the officer turns the recording off again. The officers can also turn off the cameras in order to respect citizen privacy.
“It will show the whole story,” Rumbaugh said. “It protects everyone.”
The use of body worn cameras will not affect how officers do their jobs and may instead impact how citizens interact with the police, said Boll.
“Body cams can only help community-police relations,” BHS senior Diego Escobedo said. “It'll just be a way for people to feel safer around the police, and an extra safeguard or incentive to guarantee nothing illegal happens.”
Nearby towns and cities including San Mateo, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, and Foster City, have already or plan to use BWC’s as well.