This post has been updated to incorporate a response from the district attorney’s office.

San Diego Police Chief Shelly Zimmerman is going to keep deciding when police body-worn camera footage becomes public if San Diego Police Chief Shelly Zimmerman has any say over it.

Zimmerman doesn’t think the City Council needs to pass a policy stipulating when and how such footage would become public, she said during a Wednesday presentation on the city’s body camera program to the Council’s Public Safety committee.

Currently, Zimmerman’s police department and Mayor Kevin Faulconer decide on a case-by-case basis when to release footage.

Last month, the city attorney’s office released a memo that said the Council could pass a policy outlining when public disclosure was appropriate. Zimmerman said the current, ad-hoc set-up is best.

“I’m very comfortable with our policy,” she said.


We Stand Up For You. Will You Stand Up For Us?

Councilman Todd Gloria pressed Zimmerman on the issue. He said he has no interest in generating content for the evening news, but the public should understand the standard for disclosure.

“I’m not entirely clear under what circumstances you would release it now,” Gloria said.

Zimmerman was resolute. That’s a decision for the police department and the mayor’s office, she said.

“Victims call us into their homes after they’ve been … traumatized,” Zimmerman said. “To victimize them again just by releasing the video so that everyone can look at it, I don’t believe that’s the right thing to do.”

She said camera footage is often used as evidence, and its release could jeopardize ongoing investigations.

The city of Seattle posts all body-worn camera footage on a YouTube feed, with the identities of those who appear on it obscured. The department has been able to continue functioning effectively.

The American Civil Liberties Union has released its model policy for body cameras. It instructs departments to disclose footage with the consent of subjects and redactions of subjects’ identities.

Zimmerman also said the city might not need its own policy, because regional law enforcement leaders are working on a countywide protocol.

She said she’s working with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Sheriff Bill Gore, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and police chiefs around the county to write a uniform set of standards for when and how footage should be disclosed to the public.

That policy, though, will only deal with officer-involved shootings. It won’t address footage of any other potential officer misconduct for which there may be a public interest in disclosure.

Dumanis herself has touted the regional group working on this policy.

In late December, she acknowledged that selectively releasing footage might not be a tenable long-term policy.

She said at the time she was working with Gore and U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy to release a region-wide policy on disclosing footage of officer-involved shootings within the next three months.

That’s the same group to which Zimmerman referred.

But that would mean, based on Dumanis’ original timeline, that the region-wide policy should be released within the next seven days.

A spokesperson for the DA’S office said it was “very likely” a draft of the policy would be out soon and would be the subject of two town hall discussions sometime next month.

Zimmerman, at the committee meeting, said the group hoped to release the policy for public feedback within “the next couple months.”

    This article relates to: Must Reads, Police Body Cameras, Public Safety

    Written by Andrew Keatts

    I'm Andrew Keatts, a reporter for Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0529.

    8 comments
    Sharon Parks
    Sharon Parks

    If it wasn't for the fact that private people have been filming incidents with their cameras, we wouldn't have seen things that the police later altered before the public was able to see the truth  behind some of the murders of mentally  ill people here in the city. The problem being is that they  control was goes into the  media.  Once in a  while you get the truth, by accident mostly.  And it is not through this Police Dept. full of ex-military, that still have a taste for violence. I.ve been through 3 wars, and  have seen shoot-outs in broad day light, its not normal for your child to see someone get murdered that is mentally ill ,it is not normal!. If the city goes into denial over this because they don't want to lose the Police force, it means  duck and cover  for the tourists and hope you or your child won't get hit by flying bullets

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    This article exposes a key flaw in VOSD reporting. Up to now VOSD has mostly gone to the Police Chief for comment/inquiry on these cases despite the reality that under the strong mayor form of government, the Police Chief is appointed by and reports to the Mayor. By stopping their inquiries, in most cases, at the Police Chief, VOSD has allowed the Mayor to hide behind her. Now that the cards are on the table and it is clear that the Mayor makes these decisions on a case-by-case basis (and that these decisions are as political as they are administrative), I hope VOSD will recognize that they need to hold the Mayor accountable by asking the Mayor's office for comment. It's basic journalism folks. You interview the person responsible for making the decision, not the underlings. If they won't talk, you report that they refused to comment.

    When San Diego changed from a strong manager form of government to a strong mayor form of government, the public was sold on the idea that the elected mayor would therefore be accountable to the electorate, unlike the appointed city manager. That only works effectively when the press hold the mayor accountable. Read the New York Times, for example, and you'll see that Mayor de Blasio is held responsible by the press for whatever takes place under the oversight of his administration. So should it be here.

    DavidM
    DavidM subscriber

    @Chris Brewster Excellent observation.  We're so used to the Mayor just being "one more person on the Council" that we forget who is the real decision maker.

    rhylton
    rhylton subscriber

    @Chris Brewster  You use polite language to say what I -a man of coarseness- have repeatedly bleated. The local press has been co-opted and is little more than a shill for Zimmerman, "the product of a nationwide search" to replace Lansdowne. As evidence, I offer an applicable excerpt from VOSD's article of December 29, 2015, The Tragic Life and Death Of Fridoon Rawshan Nehad. VOSD claimed that:


    "The court decision has prompted Dumanis and other high-ranking law enforcement officials to reassess their restrictive policies on releasing police video footage. Dumanis said she, Zimmerman, Sheriff Bill Gore and U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy are planning to meet to revise the region’s policies and come up with new standards in the next three months."


    And now, just about 3 months later, VOSD has the effrontery to write this article, where the above is little more than a footnote,. Perhaps it is the result of laziness; or fear. I would have asked questions about the above and demanded answers, not only from Zimmerman, but from Dumanis, Gore and Duffy. But I am coarse, yet unafraid.

    Sharon Parks
    Sharon Parks

    @Chris Brewster  right on...nobody wants the transperancy, yet our citizens are being harassed and bullied and shot everyday in this city.


    Desde la Logan
    Desde la Logan subscriber

    Will the chief of police and DA ever come to the conclusion that they work for the public? What do they have to hide? I don't buy that they're protecting victims. They're protecting dirty cops. Get rid of the dirty officers and there shouldn't be any reason to not release videos.

    Sharon Parks
    Sharon Parks

    @Desde la Logan  dirty violent cops. We need to vote all of these corrupt officials out of office. The bribes that go on are simply shameful and embarrassing. We ARE NOT the UNDERCLASS. There are so many fancy titles, agencies and corrupt land deals going on constantly. This City council's focus is the NFL elite and their own pensions. Council person S. Leightners husband is getting ready to take her position without even being recommended or voted in legally. One hand strokes the other. What bother me the most is all the sales pitching that goes on with Mr, Todd Gloria who is Faulconers salesman, and money man. I didn't vote for either one of them, I would never vote for someone as mechanical stoned face as Mr. Faulconer. I was always afraid his face might crack if he showed emotion. He was bought and paid for by,

    I shudder to guess.