Responding to demands for policy change that would address police misconduct and better protect the lives of Oakland citizens, the City Council’s Public Safety Committee recently approved an ordinance that will affirm the right to record police officers.
This proposed ordinance is one of eight recommendations presented to the Public Safety Committee in recent weeks by 100 Black Men of the Bay Area. The organization has demanded city action to enforce police reforms in the wake of police killings of Black men across the country.
Outrage over these killings stems back to 2009 when Oscar Grant was shot by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. More recently, a national wave of anger arose after Walter Scott was shot in April by a North Carolina police officer; Freddie Gray died that same month while in police custody in Baltimore; and Samuel Dubose was shot in July by a University of Cincinatti police officer.
Live video recordings of police-citizen contact have sometimes proved to be effective in holding officers accountable for unlawful shootings, as in the cases of Oscar Grant and Walter Scott.
Body cam footage of the killing of Samuel Dubose also led to the indictment of the officer for murder.
The new city ordinance, if passed by the City Council next month, would protect citizens, and officers, by providing recordings of police-citizen contact, according to Frank Tucker, chairman of 100 Black Men of the Bay Area.
“It’s going to really serve as an additional tool to keep more enforcement across the board,” said Tucker.
“In sports, they have up to 20 cameras that they use for instant replay when determining if a play was valid or not. Having multiple angles gives us a lot of value and gives us a true picture of what happened,” he added.
The action by the Public Safety Committee not only affirmed the right to record officers but also supported a “Do Shoot” awareness campaign that would educate citizens of their rights to photograph, and make audio and video recordings of police.
The ordinance, if the council passes it, would provide support for a state law, SB 411, which would protect citizens recording police activity. The bill has yet to be signed by Governor Jerry Brown.
Tucker says a policy of protecting recordings of police in Oakland would set an example for the entire country, in light of the multiple incidences of police brutality that have targeted Black lives.
“With law enforcement knowing that they are being recorded, it’s going to force them to be fair and avoid the volume of shootings and brutality that have been acted upon African American males,” Tucker said.
Representatives of 100 Black Men has also met with Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent to address their requests, including sending police body and dash camera footage to a data sharing cloud to avoid tampering with evidence.
One Hundred Black Men has introduced a similar ordinance to the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors.