BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — On Wednesday, Bakersfield Police Department officers will begin wearing body cameras as part of an effort to increase transparency and accountability.
The department will be giving cameras to about half of their officers that go out on the streets this week, and they're planning to have every single officer on the street outfitted by the end of 2020.
"There were a lot of groups that were asking for increased transparency and accountability and this helps serve some of that," said Sergeant Nathan McCauley, Public Information Officer for BPD.
Officers are expected to have their cameras recording at any point in time when they're contacting the public. If they don't hit record, they may be punished.
"If it's something where it looked to be intentional or habitual, then that officer is probably going to face some discipline issues for not following the body camera policy," Sergeant McCauley said.
BPD is starting off by giving the cameras to officers in its gang unit and impact unit, which primarily works on transient issues.
"They're doing the most subject stops, car stops, things like that. So we want to make sure if we're going to have those kind of contacts with the public we want to make sure we have those cameras out to those units first," Sergeant McCauley said.
The department participated in a year-long pilot program before committing to buying the cameras. Sergeant McCauley said the cameras are not only good for keeping officers in check, but they can help de-escalate a heated civilian too.
"A lot of people, they don't want to have their bad behavior filmed so if they're at a certain level they make take it down, calm down because they don't want to be filmed behaving in that way," he said.
Whenever an officer records something, those videos are stored and can be accessed by BPD and the District Attorney's Office. Officers are not able to delete videos.
Once all is said and done and all officers are equipped with cameras, city officials say the cameras will cost 2.9 million dollars.