A California police department is equipping its officers with a new kind of camera that provides a unique point of view.
Phillips: "You can re-see situations through body cam but when it's on your gun, I think it's a little more of a bird's eye view of what I was actually seeing vs being a camera just flat on my chest.
Stephen Phillips is a police officer in King City.
His department is the first in California to implement gun-mounted cameras, something police chief Robert Masterson said he hopes will provide transparency as police departments across the nation grapple with a new wave of public scrutiny.
Masterson: "I think this is just one more tool we can implement to provide what the public is demanding." Especially after the high profile death of George Floyd - a black man killed when a Minneapolis cop knelt on his neck.
Others have died in police-related shootings.
Masterson: "With (the) public's responses to officer-involved shootings, I really felt it was important to have that perspective of what the officer most likely can see, and the best point of view to see that from is the barrel of the handgun." His department struck a roughly $12,500 deal for 18 of Viridian Weapon Technologies' FACT Duty weapon-mounted cameras in December 2019 before rolling them out late last month.
The technology works exactly as it sounds: cameras are mounted along a rail on the bottom of a firearm's barrel and offer the visual perspective of the handgun in an officer's hands.
They start recording once the gun is pulled from holster, allowing for a clear view of the target.
But Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, warns that there are limits to the technology.
"Even when a gun is drawn, they're not going to capture the context of events leading up to the point where the officer draws their gun and often that is the most crucial part in evaluating an officer's action and whether that was abusive or professional." Stanley also said that the technology is only as good as the policies implemented to accompany them.
King City's camera policies include retaining body camera footage for 180 days and retaining any video showing use of force, including drawing a weapon, for two years.
According to the department, officers drew their firearms 15 times in 2019 and 9 times in 2020.
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