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Given the current level of criminal activities and shootings which involve local police, El Observador recommends that the Board of Supervisors, County of Santa Clara, Office of the Sheriff (Ms. Laurie Smith) be authorized to coordinate an application for funding from the U.S. Attorney General, Department of Justice.

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The reason for this recommendation is that ever since a bystander video recorded the baton beating of an individual lying prone on the pavement, the role of the camera/video feature of personal smart phones has changed things. The public is now able to record events as they are happening in a manner which becomes evidentiary material admissible by courts. Such videos assist law enforcement personnel and members of the judicial system to determine exactly what happened. Many allegations based on ‘he said-she said’ result in frustration for all involved—the public, law enforcement and the court system.

Another reason we make this recommendation is that all law enforcement personnel within the County of Santa Clara can have simillar ‘encounter activity’ video recording capability when all are wearing Body-Worn Cameras (BWC). Any and all law enforcement personnel in America, including Border Patrol, ICE and Drug Enforcement agents should consider and evaluate body-worn cameras that, we believe, will ensure this nation’s community safety and security.

Body-worn cameras will dramatically reduce the workload in our court system by eliminating cases based on witnesses’ memory; as well, cases based upon circumstantial evidence will be e significantly reduced.

On May 9, 2013 the Police Chiefs’ Association of Santa Clara County adopted a protocol for the use of ‘Body-Worn Cameras.’ Initiated by the Office of the District Attorney, fifteen law enforcement agencies signed off on this protocol for the use of BWC’s. The document reads, in part, ”Purpose and Scope: Santa Clara County law enforcement agencies electing to employ Body-Worn Cameras (BWC) should use a consistent protocol. The purpose of this protocol is to provide a best-practices model, however recognizing that each law enforcement agency has particular conditions, this protocol is intended as a foundation from which individual policies may be derived.

“BWC’s are intended to assist and complement officers in the performance of their duties. When BWC’s are used to record certain enforcement activities, they provide a valuable visual and audio record of the incident. It is anticipated that this evidence will: 1) Assist officers in report writing except when prohibited by department policy; 2) Protect officers from unfounded allegations of misconduct; 3) Reduce needless litigation in the criminal justice system; and, 4) Provide a more transparent record of encounters with law enforcement.”

The BWC protocol addresses the use of BWC’s in pragmatic detail, and its last section covers the retention of visual and audio records made by officers while on duty. “BWC recordings relating to incidents where criminal charges are filed shall be retained for at least one year, after whichever of these events occurs last: a) the matter is resolved, or, b) the defendant is released from custody; or, c) the appeal is final, and d) the BWC recording may be destroyed earlier than this provided that all relevant and involved stakeholders are given adequate and timely prior notice in which to object. In criminal cases, record retention shall comply with existing law and regulation standards.”

Substantial funding is needed to acquire Body-Worn cameras for our law enforcement officers. Several cities have obtained federal grants to purchase the cameras, one of which is Palo Alto. It is to our local and state politician that the public should turn for leadership in securing these grants.

If the residents of the County of Santa Clara think that the use of Body-Worn Cameras by local law enforcement officers would raise the level of community security and safety, then each of you should immediately contact your County Supervisor@ 408-299-5001. Cameras have changed policing forever. Silicon Valley ought to be in the forefront on this issue. Participation in local democratic governance requires that you make that phone call to 408-299-5001.


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