The Santa Monica Police Department has concluded the pilot program for body worn cameras and is now entering a research phase to determine if cameras should become standard equipment for all officers.
SMPD began wearing cameras in September of 2016 and the six-month pilot program ended on March 11.
“During the six months, select uniformed police officers and civilian personnel were equipped with these cameras,” said Lieutenant Saul Rodriguez in a press release. “The pilot offered an opportunity for SMPD to study the technology, to assess its usefulness in the community, and determine its ability to enhance the Department’s goals and objectives.”
During the trial period, officers participating in the program were encouraged to activate their cameras anytime they felt it was appropriate including any major incident, searches of people or property, during adversarial encounters or during large crowd control operations.
Feedback from officers wearing the cameras was gathered in real time during the trial period but those officers are also completing post-pilot surveys. While active participants might have feedback about the mechanical use of the unit or its value during a specific stop, all officers and members of the public are being encouraged to participate in the post-pilot survey to gather broad reaction to the program.
“Some people might not have even noticed we had the program or might not have participated before the pilot but we still want to hear from those people even after the fact,” said Rodriguez. “Whatever they may say is what the researchers from Fullerton want to find out.”
SMPD is partnering with California State University (CSU) Fullerton to gather and study data from the program. Rodriguez said CUS Fullerton has expertise in studying the use of cameras by police and working with the educational institution will provide some independent analysis of the program’s effectiveness.
Following the research phase, the department and the City will decide if the program is worth pursuing department wide.
“A comprehensive and measured evaluation is underway to assess the Pilot Program’s effectiveness in terms of legislative requirements, the needs of the Police Department, and community expectations,” said the press release. “Following the post-pilot surveying effort, all data and information collected will be evaluated to determine the feasibility of permanently implementing the BWC Program.”
During the research phase, officers who participated in the pilot can voluntarily choose to continue wearing the cameras and additional officers can who were not part of the study can also voluntarily wear a camera.
Interested community members may participate by accessing www.santamonicapd.org/bodyworncamera