Watsonville Police to use body-worn cameras

Program begins this summer

WATSONVILLE — The Watsonville City Council Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to provide body-worn cameras for its police officers, who are expected to start using the devices sometime in the summer.

Watsonville Police Capt. David Rodriguez said the program was created to increase transparency between the city and the public.

“When both officers and community members alike are held to high standards, we believe that the relationship between the community and the department will be strengthened,” he said. “We believe that the body-worn camera is one of those tools that will help us achieve a higher level of trust and accountability.”

Several officers evaluated and field-tested several different models, and chose the Axon camera for its durability and ease of use, Rodriguez said.

The city will spend about $472,000 for 75 cameras, most of which will come from Measure G funds. A $20,000 federal grant will cover the rest.

The cost will include replacing all the cameras in two and at five years, and unlimited data storage.

The cameras can be manually turned on, but they are also designed to automatically activate when an officer draws his Taser.

“This is a huge bonus,” Rodriguez said. “If an officer is drawing a Taser for an incident, that means it’s a pretty tense, high-pressure, possibly high-risk incident. This allows us not to have to add another step in the process. Instead the officer gets to focus on the threat that’s at hand.”

Officers plug in their devices to charge at the end of their shift, which also downloads the video. That video can be easily accessed, but they cannot edit or delete video, and use of the videos is tracked.

Once turned on during an arrest or contact, the officers must leave the cameras on until the incident has concluded, Rodriguez said.

Councilwoman Ari Parker called the plan a “great use of Measure G funds.”

“Wonderful protection for not only police officers, but for the public as well, to have this.”


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