Future confrontations between BART police officers and hostile citizens could soon be captured live on video — and later posted online for the world to see.
The transit agency’s police force, which has been involved in two officer-related shooting deaths in the past three years, recently purchased 160 new minicameras that can be affixed to sunglasses and record two hours of activity.
Manufactured by Taser, the cameras are designed to capture interactions between cops and potential criminals. Officers must manually turn on the lightweight cameras, which would typically happen right before a conflict.
Once the footage is captured it would be uploaded to an independent website — Evidence.com — where citizens could review it. The technology is touted as a way to help capture evidence while also providing oversight of officers in the field of duty.
Taser just announced the technology on Tuesday, but BART had already made plans to purchase 160 cameras with a $141,000 federal grant.
Before giving the cameras to officers, BART will have to set policy for when the cameras should be used, said Officer Era Jenkins, BART’s police spokeswoman. Officers also will need to undergo training for the cameras, she said, so it will probably be months before the technology is used.
Last July, BART Officer James Crowell fatally shot 45-year-old Charles Hill in the Civic Center station, an act partly caught by cameras at the facility. The grainy video appeared to show a knife being thrown at Crowell, but Hill himself cannot be seen. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday that it won’t pursue criminal charges against Crowell.
BART Director Tom Radulovich said the cameras might have been helpful in determining what happened during that confrontation.
“I’m not sold on the cameras, and I don’t know if they would have definitively determined what happened in that incident,” Radulovich said. “But I think they’re worth trying and I think they can be helpful.”
Chris Conley, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said he’s hopeful the cameras will increase transparency at law enforcement agencies.
Jesse Sekhon, president of the BART police officers union, hoped the cameras would protect officers from frivolous complaints and allow them to collect important criminal evidence. Although some officers expressed concerns about the cameras, Sekhon said that’s typical for any policy change. He said many officers, including himself, already carry small cameras on duty.
“The cameras are a step forward in policing,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they become standard for all departments within 10 years.”
160 Cameras purchased for BART police officers
206 Sworn BART police officers
$141,000 Grant funding for camera program