More local police departments requiring body cams - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

More local police departments requiring body cams

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - With recent controversies over killings involving police officers, many are calling for all on-duty officers to wear body cameras. The cameras are already in use at three local police departments, and several others are looking into them.

In April of this year, a body camera worn by Escondido police officer Joseph Putulowski recorded him rescuing an unconscious drunk driving suspect from a burning car. Videos like this one are becoming more common -- just ask Steve Tuttle.

Tuttle works for Taser, the company providing body cameras to 1,200 departments worldwide, where orders have increased dramatically since 2012.

"We went from 5 million a quarter to 11.3, and that was Q1. In Q3, we went to 14 million and this was all pre-Ferguson," he said.

Post-Ferguson, Tuttle says they've had a tenfold increase in website traffic. Following the grand jury's decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, Brown's family called on every department nationwide to require its officers wear body cameras, which record interactions with the push of a button.

"This could have been a factor where we may not have seen a riot there for example," Tuttle said.

San Diego police, Coronado and Escondido all use body cameras. Chula Vista has them on order, and El Cajon will address the topic at a city council meeting this week. Critics say the cameras are an invasion of privacy.

"We are losing a little bit of privacy, but really, we already lost it with the cell phone. It's not the body cameras that did this. This is done in response to all the cell phone cameras that are out there, and technology is only going to expand," Tuttle countered.

Tuttle says the benefits outweigh any concerns people may have. Among them: accountability, a reduction in use of force and complaints filed against the police -- something SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman confirmed last month.

"They have told the individual who is wanting to complain that the officer was wearing a body-worn camera and the complainant has said 'I withdraw my complaint,'" she said.

At this point, San Diego police has paid $4 million for the body camera program. Under the department's use policy, officers do not use them when responding to sexual assault or child abuse cases.

The body cameras weigh less than one pound at start at $299 each.

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