BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
The Redwood City Council tonight (Nov. 23) bought 100 body cameras for the Police Department, making it the last department in the mid-Peninsula to equip its officers with the devices.
The cameras will cost the city $612,605 during a five-year contract with the supplier, Axon, formerly known as Taser.
The council approved the purchase as part of its consent calendar, where multiple items, typically routine in nature, are approved. The council also approved a previously agreed-upon 3% raise for police. None of the council members made any comments on the items.
During the meeting held on Zoom, three residents spoke critically of the raises or body cameras.
Resident Clara Jackal said that while she understands that there were previous calls for body cameras on officers, the city still needs to improve its emergency response.
Jackal and fellow resident Nisha Masharani cited a Harvard study that claims body-worn cameras do not decrease the number of times officers use force on suspects and others.
Masharani said the two agenda items, the cameras and the raises, are proof that the council “gives lip service to equity without improving things.”
Similar to what’s happening in other cities across the country since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, there have been calls that the city “defund” the police and put money into programs such as clinicians or social services. Redwood City is part of a pilot program, along with South San Francisco and San Mateo, where a clinician will join officers on mental health calls in the city.
Redwood City officials have been talking about getting body cameras for the police since at least 2016 after a civil grand jury report came out calling for officers to have the equipment. However, Redwood City did not have the funds to purchase the cameras, according to a report from Deputy Police Chief Gary Kirby.
There were calls for police to get body cameras after the fatal shooting of Redwood City resident and Greene Middle School teacher Kyle Hart in December 2018 while he was experiencing a psychiatric breakdown and approached police with a knife.
Following Hart’s death, his family campaigned for police to change how they respond to people going through mental crises. Aside from body cameras, Hart’s family also asked that all officers attend a 40-hour crisis intervention training class. They also wanted beanbag guns put in every patrol car.
This shows how far in the past the RWC cops are. When bodycams first came out, police unions and chiefs objected to them. But now the consensus is that they help officers defend themselves against false accusations. Now cops want them … everywhere except Redwood City, I guess.
What are the rules for turning cameras on and off? Palo Alto cops used to brag that they could turn off their MAV car cameras so they could beat the crap out of you and then turn them back on after the beat down so no one would know.