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    San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne requested police body cameras for patrol officers Wednesday and other reforms to deal with community qualms about racial profiling at a City Council committee hearing. More than two dozen primarily minority community members attended the hearing, describing instances where they believed they were profiled and expressing other concerns about the issue.

    SDPD’s response to the issue, from both a policy and empathy perspective, continues to become more robust:

    Police are developing more policy responses to racial profiling concerns.

    Body cameras are Lansdowne’s biggest response yet to addressing racial profiling, and he led the hearing with the request. Lansdowne said traffic stop data collection on profiling didn’t provide definitive answers on profiling. Body cameras, he said, would.

    “There’s technology available that answers specifically the questions, individually and collectively to everybody’s satisfaction,” Lansdowne said.


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    He said the department has made a budget request for cameras before but it hasn’t gained traction. And he’s hoping interest in addressing profiling concerns could move it forward. Lansdowne estimated a pilot program of 100 cameras would cost roughly $200,000. Full implementation with 900 cameras for patrol officers would cost about $2 million, he said.

    Such cameras are becoming en vogue in departments across the country as part of an effort to deal with all police complaints. The federal judge who struck down the New York City Police Department’s policy of stopping and frisking pedestrians as racially biased favorably cited the use of body cameras in Rialto, Calif., according to the New York Times. A recent American Civil Liberties Union policy paper spoke positively of the cameras, provided they come with policies to deal with privacy concerns.

    Lansdowne’s responses to racial profiling concerns have gotten more and more robust. At first, he said he’d order a new round of traffic stop data collection. Then last week, he said he needed to overhaul the entire data collection system because it wasn’t working. Now, the body cameras.

    Lansdowne spoke of numerous other ways to address profiling concerns, too, including potentially tracking racial data on pedestrian stops as well as traffic stops. He said he’d work out the details of various policies through meetings with civil rights and community groups.

    The Police Department’s acknowledgment of profiling concerns is evolving too.

    Black, Hispanic, Asian, white and other community members spoke about instances where they believe San Diego police have profiled them or others they know.

    Lando Brown, a 27-year-old black resident of southeastern San Diego, said he’s pulled over frequently and asked if he’s on probation or parole or if he’s in a gang. When he says no, police ask to see his tattoos and imply they’re gang-related.

    “If your job is to protect and serve, then why do I feel like you guys are the ones trying to harm us or hurt us?” Brown said.

    Christina Griffin, a black resident of Paradise Hills, said it’s humiliating for to be frequently questioned by police.

    “I start to fall into believing that I am of those criminal backgrounds because of being stopped so much or questioned so much by law enforcement that is committed to protect me,” Griffin said.

    Asian residents also believe they’ve been profiled, said Paul Valen, the vice president of the local Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance.

    “We hear kids from Skyline to Paradise Hills talk about how they’re being labelled as gang members,” Valen said.

    Like his policy responses, Lansdowne has expressed growing sympathy toward community members with profiling concerns.

    At first, he said he didn’t hear complaints about it. Then he said the perception of profiling did exist within the community. At the end of Wednesday’s hearing, he conceded that some community members felt a lack of trust in the department.

    “I’m the first to say it’s not perfect,” Lansdowne said of the department. “But we will do those things necessary to make sure this community understands how much we care about them.”

      This article relates to: News, Police, Public Safety, Racial Profiling, Share

      Written by Liam Dillon

      Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

      12 comments
      Liam Dillon
      Liam Dillon memberadministrator

      I emailed SDSU professor Joshua Chanin for his take on body cameras. His response:

      "I think it could likely really help, but is unlikely to. Not much literature on effects of personal and/or auto cameras, but the potential is certainly there to provide some accountability. There are real questions though about whether the police would be willing/able to use them properly in the moment. (I'm sure there would be push-back from the patrol officers in terms of autonomy and huge cost-based questions from City Council members). I'm sure Lansdowne's argument here is about deterrence. But in order to deter misbehavior there has to be some threat of being caught doing something unlawful. I doubt seriously that mid-level managers (or whomever) will have the capacity to review the tapes regularly so as to either catch misbehavior real time or provide enough of a threat to deter misconduct. On balance, some potential, but my guess is that it will end up being unrealistic/unfeasible."

      Chanin also brought up a good point that police tried a pilot program with a similar camera four years ago. I need to follow up on what happened with it. http://www.cbs8.com/story/12033944/san-diego-police-test-new-cop-cameraSan Diego police test new cop camerahttp://www.cbs8.com/story/12033944/san-diego-police-test-new-cop-cameraSan Diego police test new cop camera Posted: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 10:03 PM EST Updated: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 10:03 PM EST SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - Big Brother will soon be walking the beat. The next time you get stopped by a cop, there...

      Megan Burks
      Megan Burks author

      Perfect timing. Fronteras Desk came out with a report today on the cost of implementing similar changes in Maricopa County - home of the infamous Joe Arpaio. His department is under a court order to change its policies, collect data and add cameras to patrol cars. The cost there is $81 million over five years. It seems his department might be playing catch-up more than ours, so it's really not a sound cost comparison. And their estimate includes millions in attorney's fees. (This is also a good place to point out that there is absolutely no comparison between the conversation we're having in San Diego and the actual legal trouble Maricopa is in.) But there's a worthwhile takeaway over there:

      "University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris said though court-ordered reforms are expensive up front, they may prevent more costs down the line — such as lawsuits from people who believe they have been mistreated by officers."

      Liam Dillon
      Liam Dillon memberadministrator

      I've gotten a few emails on this so I wanted to make clear that SDPD has done an increasingly good job responding to these concerns. The proof, of course, will be in the implementation and follow through of new policies. These kinds of issues have a tendency to flare up and then dissipate just as quickly.

      That said, another thing struck me during yesterday's hearing. There was a lot of mutual respect in the comments both from SDPD officials and community members, something that's not easy to convey on such a sensitive issue. It seems that's a foundation to build on.

      Megan Burks
      Megan Burks author

      Last night's meeting was truly the most sincere thing I've ever seen at 202 C Street. It was clear this is an issue the community has thought long and hard about. Their comments were a strong blend of emotion and pragmatism. And I have to say, Lansdowne's comments didn't feel misplaced in that environment. He seemed present, patient and as solutions-oriented as everyone else.

      Jim Jones
      Jim Jones subscriber

      Lansdowne is a master at appearing upstanding in person. He takes easily fooled people in with his demeanor. However the testimony in some high profile cop trials about the permissive attitude he has when it comes to bad cops is a lot more indicative of who he is and what the department is under him.
      This is a song and dance until this blows over.

      Martha Sullivan
      Martha Sullivan subscribermember

      Yeah, let's spend $2 million because Lansdowne really doesn't believe racial profiling is a problem and needs proof. Let's spend $2 million because Lansdowne won't LEAD on this -- which in a paramilitary organization like the SDPD is really what it takes -- zero tolerance for racial profiling. Let's spend $2 million for video that can be viewed by a very limited number of people due to police union rules on confidentiality of officers. Let's NOT give the Citizens Review Board on Policing Practices actual POWER to investigate citizen complaints and take effective corrective action. Let's NOT spend that money taking care of houseless people living on our streets -- even just providing a secure storage location for their belongings so they can look for work and get the services they need.

      Martha Sullivan
      Martha Sullivan subscribermember

      Yeah, let's spend $2 million because Lansdowne really doesn't believe racial profiling is a problem and needs proof. Let's spend $2 million because Lansdowne won't LEAD on this -- which in a paramilitary organization like the SDPD is really what it takes -- zero tolerance for racial profiling. Let's spend $2 million for video that can be viewed by a very limited number of people due to police union rules on confidentiality of officers. Let's NOT give the Citizens Review Board on Policing Practices actual POWER to investigate citizen complaints and take effective corrective action. Let's NOT spend that money taking care of houseless people living on our streets -- even just providing a secure storage location for their belongings so they can look for work and get the services they need.

      Jim Jones
      Jim Jones subscriber

      I'm all for body cameras on the cops, and gun cameras as well. I'm sure they will handpick good cops and avoid putting one on a known bad egg, but how the heck can they cost $2000 a pop?

      Liam Dillon
      Liam Dillon memberadministrator

      It's my understanding that most of the cost of the cameras is data storage.

      Jim Jones
      Jim Jones subscriber

      Data storage is cheap. This sounds like school solar panels, who is the contract with, what's the price breakdown?
      I've seen, in the past, contracts for police data equipment and services being pretty abusive to taxpayers and pretty good for some cops and companies. What's the financial oversight in this?

      Matt Finish
      Matt Finish subscriber

      I fully support equipping all officers with cameras. It's a great step against a thuggish, overly-aggressive, militarized police state hell bent on terrorizing its subjects with violence.

      Benjamin Katz
      Benjamin Katz subscribermember

      Wearable cameras, when properly implemented, are a massive step forward for the city. They protect the police against false accusations and citizens from police gone bad.

      Up in San Bernardino County, Rialto started using them. "In the first year after the cameras were introduced here in February 2012, the number of complaints filed against officers fell by 88 percent compared with the previous 12 months. Use of force by officers fell by almost 60 percent over the same period."

      We spent over $2 million dollars settling lawsuits due to one rogue cop, Anthony Arevalos. Let's get these cameras ASAP and protect our officers, our citizens, and taxpayer dollars.In California, a Champion for Police Camerashttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/22/us/in-california-a-champion-for-police-cameras.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0RIALTO, Calif. - "Get on the ground," Sgt. Chris Hice instructed. The teenage suspects sat on the curb while Sergeant Hice handcuffed them. "Cross your legs; don't get up; put your legs back," he said, before pointing to the tiny camera affixed to hi...Predator cop convicted of sexually assaulting womenhttp://fox5sandiego.com/news/stories/predator-cop-convicted-of-sexually-assaulting-women/#ixzz2rrcjrz00Police Officer Anthony Arevalos was arrested in June 2011 after several women accused him of sexually assaulting them while in uniform. He was convicted in November of eight felony and four misdemeanor charges involving five women, including