On Sept. 6, 2016, the Huntington Beach City Council voted yes, four to three, to the purchase of 50 body cameras for use by the HBPD.
Chief Robert Handy original asked for 150 of the cameras in March, but the council was torn in determining their effectiveness and necessity.
No police body camera bills have been passed in the past two years in the state of California, despite the national call for transparency in the police force. After the numerous recent cases of police brutality, including the killings of unarmed people, the public opinion is that all officers should have body cameras.
The body cameras, as well as 50 iPhones, were purchased with grant funding, and will remain in use during a five-year contract.
The purpose of the iPhones is to provide police officers the means to capture images of crime scenes and upload them to a department-wide cloud database for reference.
More than 85% of respondents in a survey of 785 federal, state, and law enforcement officers believe that body cameras can reduce false claims of officer brutality and misconduct, as well as legal action against the agency.
Chief Handy said that being an officer today is much more difficult than it’s ever been, with increased media coverage of police shootings and access to public records citing the names, races, ages, and other information regarding each person who’s been killed. This coverage has inspired protests, both peaceful and violent, against excessive force by the police, as well as the police themselves.
In addition to providing evidence against claims of police brutality, the body cameras are also meant to prevent the suspects and people in general from attacking officers.
“There are people out there who want to kill officers simply because they’re officers,” said Councilman Dave Sullivan. “I think over the last year or two, it gets worse every day. It seems to me if those perpetrators know that an officer has a body camera that will actually film them in their act, that that could be a deterrent.”
Some council members believed that the purchase of body cameras would be “premature,” considering that there were no notable cases of excessive force or backlash against the officers in the department, but the majority ruled that the surveillance devices would create a safer work environment for the police officers.
The start date for the use of these devices has yet to be determined.