The Bakersfield Police Department will soon begin outfitting its officers with body-worn cameras, fulfilling a request that community activists have long lobbed at city leaders.
The cameras will gradually be phased in over the next three years, starting with officers who have the most contact with the community.
The city of Bakersfield recently signed an agreement with one of the nation’s largest body-worn camera companies, Axon Enterprise Inc. for $2.9 million over five years to provide the devices to officers.
BPD says the cameras will boost public confidence in the department as well as aid officers who may be faced with untrue accusations.
“It definitely felt good that it had an extra layer of protection there,” said BPD Spokesman Nathan McCauley, who wore a camera as part of a one-year pilot program that recently concluded. “There’s no misconstruing of what went on.”
The cameras are also expected to aid officers in investigations and provide clarity during high-profile incidents like officer-involved shootings.
Beginning in October, BPD plans to deploy 210 cameras to officers in patrol shifts, on its patrol detail and its school resource unit, among others.
Over the next two years the BPD plans to expand the program to the entire department.
The cameras will operate on standby mode most of the time. Officers will be required to begin recording any time they interact with the community.
Recordings taken from the cameras will be stored in Axon’s cloud system for the foreseeable future, and the data will be used in investigations.
“We have more than enough resources and availability to store these resources for years to come,” McCauley said.
To purchase the cameras, the city used funds from the 1 percent sales tax increase passed by voters in November.
The increase provided an estimated $58 million in extra revenue to city coffers in its first full year, allowing for the rapid expansion of many city services and the addition of around 100 new officers.
“The ability to implement the cameras are a direct result of the investment made by the voters through the passage of the Public Safety and Vital Services Measure,” Assistant City Manager Chris Huot wrote in an email to The Californian, using the official title of the sales tax measure. “We look forward to the implementation and continuing to partner with the community on important public safety issues.”
The Kern County Sheriff’s Office deployed body-worn cameras to deputies in its metropolitan patrol unit in January. KCSO Spokesperson Angela Monroe said several other units within the department had the cameras as well.