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Roseville Police Department says body cameras can help with transparency, others say more policy should guide these programs

The Roseville City Council approved the program in July and officers began using the cameras in early September.

ROSEVILLE, Calif. — Police in Roseville have been using body cameras for about two months now, and a spokesperson for the Roseville Police Department said it's allowing for more transparency in police practices.

The Roseville City council approved the program in July and officers began using the cameras in early September.

"We believe this body camera program actually works very well into our community-oriented policing strategy because the accountability and the transparency that comes from being able to tell the accurate story of what happens on the streets of Roseville is really a great benefit," Rob Baquera, the Public Information Officer for the Roseville Police Department, said.

Baquera said studies have shown the effectiveness of body cameras.

"We've seen from studies across the nation that officer use of force incidents decline with the implementation of a body-worn camera program," Baquera said.

However, the founder of Sacramento's Black Lives Matter, Tanya Faison, told ABC10 that these body camera programs aren't necessarily a solution.

"It's a great idea to have it and it's necessary, but there definitely needs to be policy around it and it needs to be handled transparently," Faison said.

RELATED: Sacramento NAACP demands clear policies as sheriff rolls out body cameras

A 2021 research paper released by the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the Council on Criminal Justice's Task Force on Policing examines the costs and benefits of using body cameras.

Among the police departments studied, complaints against police dropped by 17% and the use of force by police, during fatal and non-fatal encounters, fell by nearly 10%. The paper does note that research on the cameras was limited because it's based on some of the first police departments to adopt the technology.

Since Roseville has only just begun using the cameras, Baquera said it may take a few years until they see a decline in complaints. 

"Not that the city of Roseville had a tremendously high level of community complaints against officers, but when body cameras have rolled out in communities, we've actually seen a reduction in complaints coming in because there is that precise video recording that an officer can use to tell their side of the story," Baquera said.

RELATED: Roseville Police begin use of body cameras

In 2020, Baquera said there were a total of four complaints against an officer — two were sustained, one was exonerated and one is pending.

Faison said body camera programs are a step that all law enforcement agencies should be taking.

"It doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to fix the problems, but it's definitely a step in the direction that we need to be going in order for us to have a transparent police department," Faison said.

According to a 2018 report from the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), local police and sheriffs’ offices began using body-worn cameras "to improve officer safety, increase evidence quality, reduce civilian complaints, and reduce agency liability." However, the BJS found that the research does not necessarily support the effectiveness of body-worn cameras in achieving those outcomes.

The BJS ultimately said that further research is "essential to determine the value of body-worn cameras."

As of 2016, about 47% of the country's 15,328 general-purpose law enforcement agencies had bought the cameras, according to a 2018 report by the BJS, which is the most recent study measuring nationwide usage.

RELATED: Body cameras for El Dorado County sheriff's office approved by board of supervisors | Update

For now, Barquera said Roseville's program is going well and has strong support from officers.

"Ultimately it tells the story of the encounter and officers really enjoy having those really specific details that they can attach to their reports. And as we continue to move forward to file charges on someone for committing a crime," Baquera said. 

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