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Editorial: Fatal shooting calls for camera policy refinement

Video cameras on street corners and in public spaces, license plate scanners on police cars, drones overhead, and other new technology increasingly enable the recording of our everyday behavior -- a web of surveillance that some find discomforting and an overreach by the government. But given the nature of police work involving interaction with the public, and with crime suspects, the growing use of body-worn cameras by police officers to create a clear record of events that could be called into question later has generated little criticism in Menlo Park.

When the Menlo Park Police Department bought body cameras for all officers about a year ago, it also worked with a citizen advisory group to create a protocol for use of the recorders -- a positive and encouraging move on the part of Police Chief Bob Jonsen. But the Nov. 11 killing of a burglary suspect by three police officers, a shooting for which no video exists because none of the officers turned on his camera, has exposed serious shortcomings in the implementation of a potentially beneficial program.

Chief Jonsen told the Almanac that the camera policy is under review in the wake of the shooting. Backup cameras have already been ordered to address an obvious program shortcoming: One of the officers involved in the shooting wasn't wearing a camera because he had turned it in for repair and no backups existed. But the question of when the cameras should be activated is of key concern in light of the fact that two camera-outfitted officers who arrived on the scene of a "suspicious person" call failed to turn the recorders on until after the shooting, despite the fact that the reporting party stated that the man looked like a burglary suspect pictured on a flier.

In explaining the failure to activate the cameras, Chief Jonsen noted that, among other reasons, officers work 12-hour shifts, but the cameras' batteries have only three-hour charges. That still doesn't explain why officers aren't instructed to activate the cameras immediately upon being dispatched to a call, particularly considering that even a "suspicious person" call is likely to result in contact with one or more people. Interaction with the reporting party is just as important to record as a potential encounter with a criminal.

The department policy on the cameras states that the officers "shall activate the recorder during all on duty contacts with citizens," although they shouldn't jeopardize their safety in doing so. Given that a police officer never knows what might be waiting for him or her at the arrival point of a call, it makes sense to turn the camera on before pulling away from the curb to respond to the call.

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The chief said his department is also considering buying batteries with longer capacity. Doing so would be a wise move, but one must wonder why the department purchased the original equipment a year ago with such an obvious shortcoming, given that officers are on duty for 12 hours at a time.

Mayor Ray Mueller noted in an interview with the Almanac that if the police department is going to have the cameras, "there needs to be a consistent policy that they're just on, you leave them on. You never know when a life-threatening situation, or any situation, is going to happen." He added that the appropriate path ahead is policy refinement and training, which the public has a right to expect after the failure of the current system to produce a video record of an episode that resulted in one man's death, and, with multiple shots fired, could have turned into an even more tragic event.

Mr. Mueller said he has "every confidence that the chief will address (the matter) well." The public will be watching and hoping that the mayor's confidence is well-placed.

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Editorial: Fatal shooting calls for camera policy refinement

Uploaded: Thu, Dec 4, 2014, 9:56 am

Video cameras on street corners and in public spaces, license plate scanners on police cars, drones overhead, and other new technology increasingly enable the recording of our everyday behavior -- a web of surveillance that some find discomforting and an overreach by the government. But given the nature of police work involving interaction with the public, and with crime suspects, the growing use of body-worn cameras by police officers to create a clear record of events that could be called into question later has generated little criticism in Menlo Park.

When the Menlo Park Police Department bought body cameras for all officers about a year ago, it also worked with a citizen advisory group to create a protocol for use of the recorders -- a positive and encouraging move on the part of Police Chief Bob Jonsen. But the Nov. 11 killing of a burglary suspect by three police officers, a shooting for which no video exists because none of the officers turned on his camera, has exposed serious shortcomings in the implementation of a potentially beneficial program.

Chief Jonsen told the Almanac that the camera policy is under review in the wake of the shooting. Backup cameras have already been ordered to address an obvious program shortcoming: One of the officers involved in the shooting wasn't wearing a camera because he had turned it in for repair and no backups existed. But the question of when the cameras should be activated is of key concern in light of the fact that two camera-outfitted officers who arrived on the scene of a "suspicious person" call failed to turn the recorders on until after the shooting, despite the fact that the reporting party stated that the man looked like a burglary suspect pictured on a flier.

In explaining the failure to activate the cameras, Chief Jonsen noted that, among other reasons, officers work 12-hour shifts, but the cameras' batteries have only three-hour charges. That still doesn't explain why officers aren't instructed to activate the cameras immediately upon being dispatched to a call, particularly considering that even a "suspicious person" call is likely to result in contact with one or more people. Interaction with the reporting party is just as important to record as a potential encounter with a criminal.

The department policy on the cameras states that the officers "shall activate the recorder during all on duty contacts with citizens," although they shouldn't jeopardize their safety in doing so. Given that a police officer never knows what might be waiting for him or her at the arrival point of a call, it makes sense to turn the camera on before pulling away from the curb to respond to the call.

The chief said his department is also considering buying batteries with longer capacity. Doing so would be a wise move, but one must wonder why the department purchased the original equipment a year ago with such an obvious shortcoming, given that officers are on duty for 12 hours at a time.

Mayor Ray Mueller noted in an interview with the Almanac that if the police department is going to have the cameras, "there needs to be a consistent policy that they're just on, you leave them on. You never know when a life-threatening situation, or any situation, is going to happen." He added that the appropriate path ahead is policy refinement and training, which the public has a right to expect after the failure of the current system to produce a video record of an episode that resulted in one man's death, and, with multiple shots fired, could have turned into an even more tragic event.

Mr. Mueller said he has "every confidence that the chief will address (the matter) well." The public will be watching and hoping that the mayor's confidence is well-placed.

Comments

Beth
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 4, 2014 at 4:56 pm
Beth, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 4, 2014 at 4:56 pm
1 person likes this

Read where this happened in Arizona & policeman was let go, at least from being out in the public. Gee, didn't know police could ever be wrong when it comes to using their big ol guns. These days, I'd rather run into a burglar than a policeman on a chase.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 4, 2014 at 5:08 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Dec 4, 2014 at 5:08 pm
Like this comment

" These days, I'd rather run into a burglar than a policeman on a chase."

You need to appreciate that comments like this actually reduce the ability of your police department's ability to protect you and other citizens because these comments do nothing except to lessen the trust which others have in the police.

Without public trust the police simply cannot do their job.


NOLA Barnes
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 4, 2014 at 5:41 pm
NOLA Barnes, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 4, 2014 at 5:41 pm
3 people like this

"because these comments do nothing except to lessen the trust which others have in the police"

Really? It's those comments, and not the reality of actions such as using banned choke holds to kill unarmed men in NY, that cause distrust?

Got it. It's those baaaad comments that lead to distrust.

[part removed.]


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 4, 2014 at 6:07 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Dec 4, 2014 at 6:07 pm
Like this comment

Please listen carefully - in order for our police to do their job of protecting us they must have the public's trust. Without that trust they have zero ability to exercise their authority. We weaken that trust by irresponsibly labeling all officers based on the actions of the very few.

If you object to the actions of a specific officer then file a complaint but don't blindly destroy the reputation of all the officers who bravely and professionally serve our communities.


Menlo Voter
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Dec 4, 2014 at 6:38 pm
Menlo Voter, Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Dec 4, 2014 at 6:38 pm
Like this comment

"If you object to the actions of a specific officer then file a complaint but don't blindly destroy the reputation of all the officers who bravely and professionally serve our communities."

Thank you Peter. Well stated. People need to stop tarring good, hard working police officers with the same brush. The vast majority of our officers are just doing their job. We should support that. When ONE screws up he should be disciplined. We should not assume because of the bad act s of one officers that all officers are "bad."

Again, those of you who wish to trash officers for doing their job, go on a ride along. See what these officers face day in and day out. Or participate in the citizens police academy where you can get some of the same training and experience that officers do. You will have a better, less ignorant position from which to pontificate on what our police should or shouldn't do.


Memories
another community
on Dec 4, 2014 at 6:50 pm
Memories, another community
on Dec 4, 2014 at 6:50 pm
Like this comment

I don't get it. Romero didn't kill Mr. Nice Guy, or even Mr. Not Very Nice But Unarmed Suspicious Guy. He killed Mr. Bad Guy With A Gun Who Shot The Gun And Who Had Warrants. Was the burglar a three striker, does anyone know?


t3
Registered user
another community
on Dec 6, 2014 at 6:16 pm
t3, another community
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2014 at 6:16 pm
1 person likes this

@ Menlo Voter: "The vast majority of our officers are just doing their job. We should support that. When ONE screws up he should be disciplined. We should not assume because of the bad acts of one officers that all officers are "bad.""

Menlo Voter: are you willing to go on record agreeing that if any police officer deliberately falsify's evidence in order to incriminate any citizen of crime that officer should be held accountable by our justice system? This act is known as a violation of California Penal Codes 134, 135 and potentially 141b.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 6, 2014 at 6:29 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2014 at 6:29 pm
Like this comment

t3 - YOU want someone else to "go on record" when you yourself are an anonymous poster?

What irony.


t3
Registered user
another community
on Dec 6, 2014 at 6:55 pm
t3, another community
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2014 at 6:55 pm
1 person likes this

@ Pete Carpenter, how come you are not criticizing "Menlo Voter" for being anonymous and who has declared that he was a former police officer for 10 years or so?

Peter you're a hypocrite for not criticizing "Menlo Voter" they same way you have criticized me.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 6, 2014 at 7:03 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2014 at 7:03 pm
Like this comment

t3 - I know Menlo Voter personally; you are simply a faceless, nameless poster.

So again, YOU want someone else to "go on record" when you yourself are an anonymous poster?

[part removed.]


t3
Registered user
another community
on Dec 6, 2014 at 7:31 pm
t3, another community
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2014 at 7:31 pm
1 person likes this

[post removed.]


t3
Registered user
another community
on Dec 6, 2014 at 7:42 pm
t3, another community
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2014 at 7:42 pm
1 person likes this

I also put my challenge to you Peter Carpenter. If a police officer violates California Penal Codes 134, 135 and 141b should that officer be held accountable?

Should a police officer who violates the United States Constitution regarding evidence, "Brady vs. Maryland" be held accountable for violating the United States Constitution?

If not why not?


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 6, 2014 at 8:19 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2014 at 8:19 pm
Like this comment

t3 - When you come out of the shadows THEN you can challenge me. [part removed.]

PS. Menlo Poster and I are the only posters on this topic who has sworn to uphold the law.


t3
Registered user
another community
on Dec 6, 2014 at 9:10 pm
t3, another community
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2014 at 9:10 pm
1 person likes this

There you have it folks, Peter Carpenter and Menlo Voter resorting to Ad Hominem attacks rather than addressing a straight forward question as to whether police officers should be charged with deliberately violating the law.

[part removed.]


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 6, 2014 at 9:31 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2014 at 9:31 pm
Like this comment

t3 - You have NO idea what you are talking about.

I have taken an oath to uphold the law and I always have. [part removed.]
.


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