S.F. officials propose police body cameras, other reform measures

S.F. mayor and city officials unveil police reforms that include body cameras for all patrol officers

Flanked by the police chief and members of the Board of Supervisors, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee on Thursday proposed a package of police reforms that include accelerated hiring, increased training, more civilian oversight and deployment of body cameras.

The reforms come in the wake of a scandal involving racist and homophobic text messages sent by four officers, and as law enforcement agencies nationwide come under scrutiny for excessive use of force and poor community relations.

The changes, Lee said, will help officers do their jobs "with even greater transparency and accountability."

"San Francisco deserves the best in 21st century policing and this comprehensive package of public safety reforms will help our police officers further strengthen their ties with the community,” he added.

Supervisor Malia Cohen represents the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood, which suffers from disproportionately high crime rates. She said the city is "responding to our residents’ requests" in pressing reform.

"Investing in body cameras for our police force, and providing additional resources for the Office of Citizens’ Complaints are proactive and measurable steps towards strengthening community trust in the police,” she said.

Lee’s plan will accelerate the hiring of 250 new police officers over the next two years through additional academy classes, at a cost of $21.3 million. His proposed two-year budget will also fund four new staff members at the Office of Citizens' Complaints, and include $6.6 million to fund 1,600 to 1,800 body cameras, software, video storage and staffing.


For the Record

2:41 p.m., April 30: An earlier version of this post said Lee's plan would accelerate the hiring of 400 new police officers over the next two years. The correct figure is 250.


Lee and Police Chief Greg Suhr said they have been exploring the use of on-body cameras for more than a year.

Lee also announced Thursday that he had formed a working group to develop appropriate policies and protocol for the use of technology and body cameras by SFPD -- including whether or when the video would be made available to the public.

The ACLU has been invited to participate, a mayoral spokeswoman said.

The Los Angeles Police Commission this week approved a plan to equip all patrol officers with body cameras. The policy also requires officers to look at footage prior to writing reports. But officers involved in a serious use-of-force incident, the rules state, may be allowed to review the video only after being authorized by an investigator.

Critics, including the ACLU, are concerned that officers will be able to craft their statements to match the video evidence.

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