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You see me, I see you

A leader in implementing new technology the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) has issued over 600 body cameras to uniformed police officers to enhance how the force protects and serves you. But what is most interesting is how the leaders of the San Diego police have taken to heart the need to actively involve the community in the implementation of body cameras.

I had the opportunity to meet with Brian Marvel, president of the San Diego police Officers Association at the recommendation of Chris Ward, LGBT community member and Third District City Council candidate. Marvel was interested in getting the perspective of the LGBT community with respect to body cameras and the privacy issues surrounding the implementation of the technology.

I was pleasantly surprised by the openness and concern for the issues that the LGBT community may have with respect to body cameras, as well as Marvel’s desire to mitigate the risks associated with the new technology across all communities. While the LGBT community has had a storied past with the San Diego police department, the meeting underscored the progress that has been made and how the relationship between the police and our community has fundamentally changed.

Body cameras are believed to improve the behavior of those being questioned, as well as that of the police officers doing the questioning. Whether it is a routine traffic stop or a call for assistance, preliminary data indicates that filming encounters between police and citizens leads to fewer complaints against the police, as well as provides a video record in the event there are issues with a particular encounter. This is a wonderful result; close to a 60 percent reduction in the allegations of police misconduct and a 46 percent reduction in the use of force because of the video record.  Then why haven’t body cameras been implemented everywhere? There are significant privacy issues that have to be addressed.

First, when and what should be taped? The ACLU has suggested that all encounters between citizens and the police should be recorded whenever possible. While that sounds great on the surface, it does not prevent potential retribution for those who may be reporting a crime against a gang for example.

Since the video could be available to the media and general public due to freedom of information policies, that means the gang member who is being accused might have access to the witness video. In short, Tony Soprano could get access to the video showing who snitched on him, putting the witness at risk.

Then there are situations that may involve victims of rape, domestic or child abuse, should these victims be taped? If so, what drives the taping? Severity of the event, age of the victim? These situations apply to all communities and represent just a smattering of the issues that the police must weigh as a full implementation of body cameras is pursued. Guess what? The San Diego police department is on the forefront of developing policies that weigh the competing interests of privacy and better community policing. Unfortunately, the LGBT community presents a unique set of issues.

While I wish everyone had the luxury of being “out” in every situation and in all aspects of their lives, it simply does not represent reality. So that means an encounter with the police could lead to an unintentional “outing.” while the LGBT community does have protections against employment discrimination in California, meaning you can’t be fired for being a member of the community, not so much in other states. Twenty nine states allow employment discrimination based upon sexual orientation and 32 states based upon gender identity.

You could also be “outed” due to a domestic dispute that is taped at your home. As San Diego Police Association president marvel so eloquently said, “most people are not at their best in encounters with police.” So some modicum of privacy must be maintained. Unfortunately, an unintentional outing by the police may be a price we have to pay for the greater good.

This could have a chilling effect on police reports by closeted members of our community, but what is a reasonable solution? Anyone with a great idea to address this issue, please share it with the SDPD and me.

Finally, there are the issues of who has access to the video encounters recorded by police, how long and where the video information is stored, and if you can request that an encounter not be taped. All thorny privacy issues that the police association and local leaders are taking head on.

While the policy created by the police and the community will be a living document available for all to review and understand, you can rest assured that our police leaders are asking the right questions and making every attempt to consider all issues including those unique to the LGBT community.

You know times have really changed when the next question we discussed was how to recruit more gay and lesbian officers to the police force. Bravo, San Diego police leaders.




San Diego LGBT Weekly


Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=58435

Posted by on Apr 2, 2015. Filed under Editorial, Top Highlights. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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