Quan: More cameras mean less police force

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said today that there’s been a “significant decrease” in use-of-force incidents by her city’s police officers since they began wearing body cameras four years ago.

Quan said Oakland police officers had 2,186 use-of-force incidents in 2009, the last year that no officers wore body cameras, and that number declined to 836 such incidents last year and to only 572 incidents so far this year, with just two weeks remaining.

She noted that President Obama recently announced his support for the use of body cameras by officers in the wake of protests across the country after grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York not to charge police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men.

Quan said in a brief phone interview tonight that she believes officers’ use of body cameras is “a major reason” that use-of-force incidents have declined but isn’t the only reason. The mayor said better training for officers in handling potentially violent confrontations is another reason such incidents have decreased.

Oakland officers “don’t do knee-jerk shootings and think before they shoot,” Quan said. “There are tougher use-of-force procedures and if you use a gun you have go to a use-of-force board hearing,” Quan said.

In addition to reducing use-of-force incidents, Quan said that wearing body cameras helps officers defend themselves in instances when they are falsely accused of using excessive force:

“It goes both ways.”

The number of use-of-force incidents in Oakland dropped from 2,186 in 2009 to 1,945, when just under 200 officers wore body cameras, according to Quan. She said the number decreased to 1,494 in 2011, when just over 300 officers wore cameras, and to 1,244 in 2012, when just under 400 officers wore them.

Quan said the number dropped even more, to 836 in 2013, when just under 500 officers wore cameras, and to only 572 so far this year, when 619 officers are wearing them. She also noted that the department has gone more than 18 months without an officer-involved shooting, in a city that used to average about eight such incidents a year.

In the phone interview, Quan said most Oakland officers now wear body cameras, except for the command staff and investigators who aren’t regularly out on the streets. But the mayor said she is now urging Whent to wear a body camera because he arrested two people during recent protests in Oakland.

Quan said she told the chief that he should wear a camera to defend himself in case someone files a complaint against him.

Quan issued the information on use-of-force incidents in advance of a town hall meeting that Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, State Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and faith leaders hosted at the Beebe Memorial Cathedral at 3900 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland this evening.

Carson said the purpose of the meeting was to address the strained relationship between law enforcement and the community.