Daly City approves body-worn and vehicle cameras for police after fatal shooting

Daly City officials on Wednesday approved body and vehicle cameras for police after a recent fatal shooting that renewed calls...

Daly City officials on Wednesday approved body and vehicle cameras for police after a recent fatal shooting that renewed calls for the devices.

In a special meeting dedicated to body cameras, council members unanimously agreed to purchase the equipment. The approval comes in the aftermath of the April 7 police killing of Roger Allen, a 44-year-old Black man from San Francisco, of which no video has publicly emerged.

Rolling out the camera program by Axon Enterprise Inc. will cost $1.35 million over five years, officials said. Devices should be installed by October.

The special meeting on Wednesday — which had no public comment — took place after Allen’s death renewed calls for the cameras and after three consecutive closed session meetings. Council members had previously maintained that the cameras would be considered for approval as part of the upcoming budget process.

In announcing the approval late Wednesday night, Mayor Juslyn Manalo outlined the city’s history of considering body cameras and acknowledged “challenging times.” Allen’s death, which has spurred protests in Daly City and San Francisco, was not directly mentioned.

“The City Council has taken steps to implement body-worn and patrol vehicle cameras since February of this year, and tonight at our special City Council meeting, we have taken final action to procure these cameras,” Manalo said in a statement on Wednesday. “I want to personally thank all those who have reached out to city leadership to share their commentary, concerns, and feedback. Please know that we do hear you and we know our community is made stronger through community involvement.”

The Daly City Police Department is one of the last law enforcement agencies in San Mateo County to equip its 94 officers with cameras. Since a 2016 Civil Grand Jury Report recommendation, city officials have said they agreed they should be implemented but cited financial barriers to adopting body-worn cameras.

The November passage of Measure Q, a half-cent sales tax for the general fund, brought cameras to the forefront. In February, council members agreed to prioritize modernizing police equipment — which includes Tasers — in the upcoming budget.

Community advocates have criticized the city for not being proactive about implementing body-worn cameras and for the lack of transparency in its response to the Allen shooting. Shakeel Ali, a spokesperson for the Allen family, said that he and others were unaware the special meeting on police cameras was even scheduled.

“Since 2020, especially after what happened George Floyd, it makes no sense,” Ali said. “They should’ve had cameras then. The demand of the family is not to use money as an excuse.”

Allen died after Daly City police approached a vehicle with a flat tire on Niantic Avenue between Citrus and Westlake avenues on April 7. San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said, based on police and witness statements, that a struggle ensued over a fake gun that “appeared to be a Glock firearm.”

One officer shot twice when the fake gun was pointed at the face of the officer in a physical struggle with Allen, according to Wagstaffe. Allen was struck in the chest and later died.

Allen’s family has questioned the official version of events. A male witness who was with Allen at the time of the shooting told John Burris, a longtime civil rights attorney representing the family, that there was a struggle.

What led to the interaction in the first place, however, is still a question Burris is trying to answer. The attorney said he recently examined at Allen’s body in the morgue, and thought there may be another video to look at or willing witness to speak with.

“Questions have been raised in our minds about the position of the body at the time, of Mr. Allen and the police,” Burris said. “We have to evaluate the police conduct leading up the stop, the conduct in the car…these are significant questions that have to be answered. An independent investigation could do that.”

But Burris praised the approval of body-worn cameras for Daly City police. “For Mr. Allen, it would’ve been better if it had been done sooner,” he said.

Allen’s family had also demanded release the names of officers involved. The city last week identified Lt. Michael Brennan and officers Rosa Brenes, Nicholas McCarthy and Cameron Newton as being involved in the shooting but did not specify which officer shot Allen.

Council members initially told the Examiner they supported withholding the names until the investigation concluded, but changed their positions during a lengthy council meeting last week.

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