Berkeley Police Review Commission continues discussion of body-worn camera policy

Karen Chow/File

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The Berkeley Police Review Commission examined and debated changes to the recent Berkeley policy on body-worn cameras and was informed about the Berkeley Police Department’s current hiring process at the commission’s regular Wednesday meeting.

According to commission chair Sahana Matthews, this was the first commission meeting in which a police officer arrived wearing a body camera. Lt. Angela Hawk said all officers have body cameras and are using them in the field. Hawk demonstrated to the commission how the body camera is turned on and off.

During the meeting, there was confusion over when an officer should start recording. Commissioners were concerned about what kind of situation or interaction would qualify as needing to be recorded.

“Should the public assume that they are always being recorded?” asked Commissioner Andrea Prichett.

Hawk clarified that an officer would only begin recording if the officer engaged in a “suspicious” interaction. Hawk also mentioned that citizens do not have to be notified when the body camera is recording; officers are permitted to use their discretion.

One major concern that was discussed in the meeting was when or when not an officer may cease recording. Commissioners focused on the section “Cessation of Recording” in the body-worn camera policy.

Commissioner Ismail Ramsey made a movement to delete Point D in the section stating that an officer may cease recording or mute their body-worn camera when “in the member’s judgement, a recording would interfere with his or her ability to conduct an investigation.”

There were multiple movements to change or remove Point A in the section that allows an officer to stop recording in “discussion of tactical or confidential information with other law enforcement personnel.” No movements were passed, however.

Matthews said commissioners will make an outline of policy problems they would like to discuss during the next commission meeting. She said she hopes that by the end of the next meeting, the policy will be in its final draft, with all recommendations outlined.

In addition to debate over language used in the policy, Hawk presented the BPD chief’s report discussing staffing processes and the new physical agility test that officers will take. Hawk said officers have been on overtime to fill staffing gaps.

“It’s tough; we still can’t sell all the overtime slots we have,” Hawk said.

According to Hawk, however, BPD is in the process of hiring civil enforcement officers and dispatchers. In order to speed up the hiring process, BPD is working on contracts with outside background-check investigators to ensure officers are not hired by other police departments. Hawk also reported that BPD is working with marketers to expand the online hiring process.

Hawk said during the meeting that BPD will have an information day through the BPD Personnel and Training Bureau on Dec. 1. The information day will be open to the public — those interested may ask questions about the test and can take the agility test themselves. Qualified officers will take the test in early December. According to Hawk, there are 100 people who are qualified to take the test, but BPD expects about 60 to show up.

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.