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Grand Jury Recommends Giving Citizens Access to Police Patrol Car Videos
The Santa Barbara County Grand Jury has concluded that if citizens have access to the patrol car video recordings of their brushes with police, there could be fewer legal complaints filed against law enforcement departments.
In an October report, the Grand Jury found that all law enforcement agencies but two have audio/visual recording equipment in their patrol vehicles and recommended that the Santa Barbara and Guadalupe police departments get camera systems as soon as possible.
The Santa Barbara department has budgeted $250,000 to buy a system but hasn’t made a final selection on a vendor, according to Sgt. Riley Harwood. The estimated cost is $8,000 per car, and the department plans to equip all 27 patrol cars.
The Guadalupe department is still looking for a funding source.
Though most agencies have the recording equipment, people aren’t given access to the recordings without entering the legal process and usually aren’t even told their contacts with officers are recorded. But the Grand Jury believes earlier access could prevent legal action in the first place.
“When citizens and parents/guardians inquired about an incident and were informed that there was an A/V recording, in an overwhelming number of cases, the issue was dropped,” law enforcement personnel told the Grand Jury during the investigation.
With the goal of increasing transparency and saving staff time and costs for police agencies, the Grand Jury recommends that agencies allow citizens stopped by patrol officers to view recordings, without needing to file a legal complaint to do so.
Agencies should also give citizens verbal and printed notice that there is a recording with information of when and where they can view it, notify parents/guardians if their child has a recorded police contact, and calculate the potential financial savings of implementing those changes, the Grand Jury recommended.
Santa Barbara police have tested seven camera system companies and run several pilot programs. One of those test cameras was in Officer Aaron Tudor’s car Oct. 21 when he pulled over driver Tony Denunzio on suspicion of drunken driving. Some witnesses say excessive force was used by Tudor, but Police Chief Cam Sanchez maintains that no rules were broken. The video captured a portion of the interaction between the two, though the struggle moves out of view for a large segment.
The incident came just two weeks after the Grand Jury’s report recommending that all agencies implemented cameras in patrol cars to increase transparency.
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