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Irvine OKs body cameras for police, will begin testing them this fall

The Irvine Police Department could start beta testing body-worn cameras for officers as soon as this fall, with agency-wide implementation of the program by the second quarter of next year, after the City Council this week authorized police Chief Mike Hamel to seek bids for providing the cameras.

Irvine would join about a dozen other law enforcement agencies in Orange County that equip officers with body cameras and require their use during official interactions with the public, such as traffic stops and arrests.

Supporters say the cameras can help keep police accountable and increase community trust, as well as potentially reducing or helping resolve complaints about officer conduct.

Hamel had planned a pilot body camera program for next year, but said he moved up the timeline in light of the current push for police reform following George Floyd’s death May 25. A Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes now faces criminal charges.

Startup costs for Irvine’s camera program could run up to $1 million, with annual operating costs estimated between $300,000 and $700,000, Hamel told the council on Tuesday, June 23. Funding could come from asset forfeiture, contingency money in a computer dispatch upgrade project, grants and money already budgeted for the body camera pilot program.

The department has policies on the use of existing vehicle dashboard cameras and audio recorders officers carry, Hamel said, but they’ll need to be updated to account for the body-worn cameras.

Several residents who emailed comments to the council objected to adding more money to the police budget and one questioned whether the cameras would increase surveillance of the community, but others said body cameras would improve accountability.

“I think that just gives us another level of protection for not only our residents, but also for our officers as well,” Mayor Christina Shea said.

Source: Orange County Register

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