Body cameras coming for all Richmond cops

Starting in January, all Richmond police officers will be equipped with body cameras.

Richmond police Capt. Mark Gagan said:

“Body cameras are an effective tool and a technology that have really evolved in recent years to be lightweight, affordable and helpful in investigations.”

The Richmond Police Department received 120 body cameras last week paid for by an $85,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant, Gagan said. On-duty officers will attach the lightweight cameras to their shirt’s lapel, with an attached power source in their breast pocket, Gagan said.

The police captain said officers will also be able to choose when they turn on the cameras or whether they use the devices to record only audio, video or both.

Gagan said:

“We’re not really working from a deficit of trust, so we’re not mandating they have them on at all times. …┬áBut our policy does state that we want officers to record any interactions with the public that are part of an investigation or could have a potential use of force.”

In a study released on the Department of Justice’s website in September, “The use of body-worn video by frontline officers has real potential to reduce complaints of incivility and use of force by officers.” About a dozen Richmond police officers are testing the cameras in the field ahead of the program’s launch next month.

Police department officials will monitor any changes to case law regarding the cameras’ use, especially when it comes to privacy rights, Gagan said.

The new body camera program comes amid protests nationwide and throughout the Bay Area against two recent grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers who killed unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island New York.

Gagan and Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus, along with other top brass from the department, caught the public’s attention on Tuesday when they joined in alongside protesters during an hours-long demonstration against police brutality.

Photos of Magnus holding a sign with the words “Black lives matter” spread quickly via social media, gaining nationwide attention. In a post on his Twitter page in response to photos of the protesters, Richmond police Deputy Chief Allwyn Brown wrote:

“We hear you.”

According to Gagan, department officials wanted to join the demonstration not only to keep the peace but also to show solidarity with the protesters.

Since Magnus took the helm of the department in 2006, he has emphasized community policing, a crime reduction strategy in which officers are encouraged to foster trust-based relationships with the residents in their beats.

The city saw its first officer shooting in seven years in September, when an officer shot and killed 24-year-old Richard Perez III after the two got into a confrontation outside a liquor store. Meanwhile, violent crime in the city has fallen 13 percent this year compared to 2013, while property crime has dropped by 16 percent, according to police.