LOCAL L.A. Now

San Diego to buy clip-on cameras to monitor police conduct

SAN DIEGO - The City Council is set to spend $2 million for clip-on cameras for police officers so that officials can monitor the officers' interactions with the public.

The move comes amid two high-profile cases of allegations that on-duty officers abused women. 

One officer has been charged with two felonies and three misdemeanors and has resigned; a second officer has been suspended and is under investigation, although no charges have yet been filed.

The use of video cameras is supported by Mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer, Acting Mayor Todd Gloria, City Atty. Jan Goldsmith, Chief Bill Lansdowne and Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman. Zimmerman is set to succeed Lansdowne when he retires Monday after 10 years as chief.

At a news conference Wednesday to announce Zimmerman, Goldsmith said that cameras for patrol officers will help identify misbehavior and "protect officers from false or overstated claims."

The department has 1,856 sworn officers who make an average 52,000 arrests a year and answer 600,000 calls for service, officials said.

In the wake of the abuse allegations, the city is also asking the Department of Justice to review the department's personnel practices and whether it adequately screens out problem officers.

"We want a thorough and truly independent review," said Goldsmith. The review was first suggested by Lansdowne.

A similar review of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department resulted in a 149-page report with 75 suggested reforms.

The San Diego department has also instituted a new rule requiring two officers in a patrol car whenever a women is being taken to jail.

The allocation for cameras was approved Wednesday by the council's budget committee and forwarded to the City Council. The cameras, already in use in several departments, will be clipped on to the front of an officer's uniform.

In January, 30 Los Angeles police officers assigned to the downtown skid row area began testing different camera models. At the end of the testing period, officials expect to purchase about 600 cameras for use throughout the LAPD.

Implementing the camera policy will fall to Zimmerman, 54, a 31-year veteran of the department. She will be the first woman to serve as chief in department history.

In her comments, Zimmerman said that 99% of officers do excellent work and she vowed to take a hard-nose approach against "the few who disgrace this uniform."

"I will not tolerate that," she said.

Her appointment must be approved by the council but approval is expected soon.

"This is an exciting and historic day in the city of San Diego," said Councilwoman Marti Emerald, chairwoman of the council's public safety and livable neighborhoods committee.

"As a woman, it's great to see another woman in a position of leadership," she said.

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Twitter: @LATsandiego

tony.perry@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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