On Wednesday the San Antonio City Council’s Governance Committee will learn about a proposed pilot program for a body-worn police camera system for the San Antonio Police Department.
According to the city, the 12-month program would outfit patrol officers with a variety of body-worn cameras with the goal of “gathering data on the effects on citizen and police behavior, evidentiary value, operation feasibility, program costs, and other factors.”
There are no cities similar to San Antonio that have fully implemented body cameras, but police departments in Austin, Houston, Fort Worth, and Phoenix are currently conducting pilot programs.
While the technology is relatively new, privacy concerns are already being raised in the legal community.
“The biggest issue that arises is a question of data security and storage,” said St. Mary’s University law professor Geary Reamey. “Any of that information that is collected and stored could be used inappropriately.”
Reamey is a former police adviser and said body-worn cameras and other recording devices have pros and cons.
“The good thing is that it captures a lot of things verbatim as it actually happens. In some cases that really helps the state make a case, and sometimes it really helps the defense,” he said. “You’ll be able to see an officer acting in a way that’s inappropriate or abusive. While that’s something the Police Department wants to know about, it makes officers self-conscious or reluctant to act.”
Chief William McManus will make the presentation, but declined to comment until a decision is made on whether to move forward with the pilot program.
The San Antonio Airport Police has already conducted a successful pilot program and will implement body-worn cameras unit wide later this year.
Residents said they understood the benefits of body-worn cameras, but reaction to SAPD officers actually using them was mixed.
“I’m not worried about it,” said Gilbert Montez, “I’ve got nothing to hide.”
“It’s like personal trespassing,” Patricia Garcez said. “It’s invading your privacy, your personal rights.”