Debate over police cameras in San Diego - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Debate over police cameras in San Diego

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - On Thursday, San Diego's Chief of Police said body cameras are working. 

San Diego Police boast being the largest city in the U.S. to have body cameras, and on Thursday local leaders debated the pro's and con's of police cameras. 

"It would not only hold our officers accountable but it would also hold the public accountable too," said said Shelley Zimmerman, Police Chief, San Diego Police Department.

There are about 950 body cameras worn by San Diego Police Officers. Chief Zimmerman called the devices a win-win. 

"There have been zero zero instances where they wish they did not have the camera and there have been countless numerous times that they were grateful that they did have the camera," said Zimmerman.

At a debate on police body cameras held at California Western School of Law, officers along with the deputy public defender and the ACLU sounded off on the pros and cons of the gadgets. 

"Someone shouldn't be sitting there saying oh look at him there I got him but that also applies for people shouldn't be fishing for additional charges that you can find on somebody," said Kellen Russoniello, Attorney, ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

The San Diego Sheriff's Office currently does not have body cameras. 

"We're going to be trying out different vendors out there and ultimately the sheriff will decide which vendor to choose then we'll have our own body camera program going out there," Lt. George Calderon, , San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

Panelists faced off over the issues of privacy and length of time a recording should be kept. 

"About an investigation into a crime for that to be deleted at any point is hard to swallow," said Alex Simpson, Associate Director, California Innocence Project.

Police say they have seen significant drops in crime since officers started wearing cameras. 

"They're great for a lot of things but they're not the cure all for social issues," Zimmerman said.

The big point of Thursday night's discussion came down to access. 

Many attendees asked questions and stated frustration over why footage is only available for court and review boards. 

"So if there's no willingness to have access to help get at the root problem of hey racial biases effect our actions can we look at this video and if we can't do that then the cycle will continue," said attendee Jamila Demby. 

Even with the 950 cameras, Zimmerman says more body cams are expected.

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