Body-worn cameras are proving to be a divisive issue within the San Jose Police Department, as Chief Eddie Garcia and the rank and file seem to disagree on at least one new protocol.
Garcia has asked the Santa Clara County district attorney to notify him when staff attorneys comes across a case file where an officer did not turn on his body camera. The request was not received well by the police union.
The union said Wednesday one officer already has been referred to Internal Affairs after a call from the DA’s office informing the chief the officer did not activate his body camera.
San Jose officers began their training with the cameras last July. The duty manual says they must be on most of the time.
"We need to ensure that officers are adhering to that policy," Garcia said.
But police union leaders believe the request is unusual and unnecessary.
"It can damage the good relationship we have with the District Attorney’s Office, and asking attorneys to get involved in administrative complaints," said Sgt. Paul Kelly, president of the San Jose Police Officers Association.
Kelly said in the incident involving the officer being sent to IA, his camera was not working properly.
"It’s a problem because it makes our officers look like there’s a problem that we’re not turning on the cameras, and that’s not the fact," Kelly said.
Kelly highlighted 23 reasons in the policy where the cameras can be off, including when officers are inside a hospital. But Garcia insists he needs to make sure the cameras are working properly and that the officers are using them properly.
"We certainly don’t want to wait for a critical incident to occur to find out an officer’s camera wasn’t activated for whatever reason," the chief said.
The DA has declined to comment on or confirm the policy, but in emails from the DA’s office obtained by NBC Bay Area, an assistant DA told supervisors Wednesday to let her know whenever an officer "purposely failed to turn on the body cam."
Garcia said Wednesday the DA's office told him they would let him know if a case was jeopardized by an officer not turning on a camera. That's something even the police union agrees with.