Outfitting police officers with body-worn cameras took a step forward Wednesday when the Board of Supervisors approved $2.4 million in funding for the project. (Mike Koozmin/2015 S.F. Examiner)

Supes release $2.4M for Police Department body cams

City officials authorized funding Wednesday for San Francisco to begin outfitting police officers with body-worn cameras as early as next month.

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee released the $2.4 million, which was previously allocated for the effort, upon request from Police Greg Suhr.

Outfitting officers with cameras has long been discussed, but pressure for officers to wear body-worn cameras has increased amid growing calls for police transparency and high-profile incidents like December’s fatal police shooting of Mario Woods.

“The department estimates that each police officer will record two hours of video per shift,” said a report by Harvey Rose, the board’s budget analyst. “Approximately 20 percent of the video recordings will be retained permanently, and the remaining video will be retained for either 13 months or 25 months and then deleted.”

The body camera program is expected to launch next month, according to Suhr’s letter to the committee requesting the funding, although there are some outstanding issues.

Negotiations with the vendor Taser International, which won a competitively-bid process, remain ongoing, though that process was criticized by a losing company. A final agreement is expected by March 14, according to Rose’s report.

The report also said “the selected contractor is responsible for providing the cameras and associated equipment, and for data management and storage.”

The money will be used to pay for start up costs associated with the body camera program. The department has hired nine legal assistant positions — there are 11 total planned — whose job it will be to ensure the department is complying with the body camera policy, redact video appropriately and respond to requests for the footage.

Supervisor Katy Tang said she would like to hear more information about Taser’s operations and the agreement once the negotiations are finalized at future hearing at the committee.

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