More police officers being outfitted with body cameras

RIALTO, Calif. - Alleged police brutality caught on camera in New York and Los Angeles this month has prompted a public outcry for better officer training. But in some cases, authorities say the full story is not always told. They are responding with some high-tech tools.

Policing in the digital age means every moment, every incident can be caught on camera - and sometimes, followed by accusations of excessive use of force. But now, hundreds of police departments are exploring whether their own cameras might create a more complete picture of a scene.

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A California Highway Patrol officer was videotaped beating a woman along the side of a freeway earlier this month.
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Rialto Police Chief Tony Farrar believes outfitting police officers with body cameras is going to become the norm.

"This is something that's changing the face of law enforcement," he said.

Farrar is the first police chief in the country to outfit all 75 beat cops with body cameras worn on lapels or eyeglasses. Others are now looking at Rialto as a test case for their own department-wide programs.

"People tend to behave a little better when they know they're on camera," Farrar said.

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Farrar says the year before body cameras went on officers, there were 24 complaints of excessive force. The next year, it dropped to three.

"Everyone acts better," said Rialto police Sgt. Chris Hice. "I think it teaches our police officers and our citizens to treat each other more respectfully."

Hice says police body cams help tell the whole story, from start to finish.

"The thing of the past is the three-second cellphone clip from, you know, John Doe. 'Here's what the police officer did.' Now we'll show you 3 1/2, four minutes of the contact prior to (the incident)," Hice said.

The American Civil Liberty Union's Peter Bibring says his organization, which normally opposes surveillance of citizens, endorses the body cameras, and not just in Rialto.

"A picture's worth a thousand words and video, many more," Bibring said. "And video, from the perspective of the officer, is going to be an invaluable tool in determining why an officer acted the way he or she did - and whether he or she acted appropriately."

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Rialto, Calif., police Sgt. Chris Hice has a body camera attached to eyeglasses.
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Case in point: When a driver allegedly ran a stop sign in Rialto.

What should have been a routine stop escalated. Both the police and the man's son had cameras rolling.

"Let me explain to you something," Hice says on video.

The driver responds: "Well, you can explain it to that videotape, bro. My kid saw what you did. You was out of line."

The police sergeant answers: "Everything that I've done is on video, right here, on me."

For good or bad, the evidence will be there for all to see.

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