Fresno police add body cameras to restore public trust

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Body cameras will now be part of the uniform for 50 officers -- and hundreds more by the end of 2015 in a trust-restoring move by the Fresno Police Department. (KFSN)

Action News reported on the homeless task force implementing body cams last summer. Now, the program is expanding to patrol, traffic, and tactical officers.
Body cameras will now be part of the uniform for 50 officers -- and hundreds more by the end of 2015 in a trust-restoring move by the Fresno Police Department

Action News reported on the homeless task force implementing body cams last summer. Now, the program is expanding to patrol, traffic, and tactical officers.

Chief Jerry Dyer says he recognizes there's been an erosion of trust between the public and police, in part because of high profile incidents in Ferguson, Mo. and New York City. He believes the introduction of body cams will help with that while at the same time increasing safety.

Out on the streets, Sgt. Robert Dewey and his homeless task force acted as guinea pigs for the Fresno Police Department's implementation of body cameras.

"And we were all a little hesitant at first because we didn't quite know how the public was going to react to it or how we were going to react to it and how our actions were going to change," said Sgt. Dewey.

Over the last six months, Dewey says the cameras have become second nature. As officers head into the unknown, they click on the device and their actions become transparent -- recorded on nearby tablets. In a world of phone cameras and social media, this is the police department's way to show an incident from a different angle.

"We need to make sure we're providing the community, the public, with the officer's perspective, the officer's view of what they're seeing at the time they take action," said Chief Dyer.

The cameras hold about two-and-a-half hours of video, so they can't record an officer's entire shift. Chief Dyer says the idea is for officers to automatically record interactions on traffic stops, enforcement encounters, and search warrants -- any potentially difficult situations. The cameras also store 30 seconds of video before they're activated, which has already proved valuable for Dewey and his test subjects.

"We've had a couple instances where we've had officers activate the camera in the midst of a struggle and captured some pretty great evidence," he said.

An anonymous donor gave the department $500,000 to buy more cameras, so Chief Dyer intends to get 50 new body cameras on the streets every few months until the money runs out.



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