The Sacramento Police Department has announced new body cam policies for its officers after two policemen muted their microphones following the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark.
The department sent out a written directive to inform officers when they are allowed to turn off their body cameras last week, noting that the policy had been in the works since last year, but that the shooting of Mr Clark last month had made it necessary for swift action.
A copy of the written directive provided to The Independent says that officers can turn off their body cameras when discussing medical issues or when dealing with a sensitive victim, when body cam batteries are low if the officer is not an active part of an investigation, or under extraordinary circumstances. They must also verbalize the reason for shutting off their body cams before doing so.
Mr Clark’s case gained national notoriety last month after the police department made the unusual decision to release the body camera footage just three days after Mr Clark was killed. The video shows police responding to reports that someone in the neighbourhood was breaking car windows, and then Mr Clark — a 22-year-old father of two — being shot eight times, primarily in his back.
After the shooting, it was discovered that Mr Clark was not armed at the time of his death. He had been standing in his grandmother’s backyard with his cell phone.
Officers were later told to turn off their body cameras, though it is unclear who gave that order.
Mr Clark’s death has sparked another wave of national protests against police brutality and police killings of unarmed black men in the US.
The decision by the Sacramento Police Department to implement stricter rules for body cameras in the wake of the shooting was met with some degree of relief from the community in Sacramento, but experts on police use of force say that the policy should have been in place long before this most recent killing.
“At least at this point they’ve got the power rules in there now,” Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina, told the Associated Press. “It shouldn’t happen again, but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”