SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sacramento police have issued their first written policy on when officers can turn off body cameras after two officers muted their microphones following thein his grandparents' backyard. Deputy Chief Ken Bernard discussed the new memo Monday at a meeting of the Community Police Review Commission after it was issued to officers last week.
Body camera footage of the killing of 22-year-old Stephon Clark reveals that two officers were told to mute their microphones about seven minutes after the shooting. The new policy requires officers to verbalize their reason for turning off the microphone. The policy was in the works before Clark's shooting but it prompted the department to issue the guidance more quickly, said police spokesman Sgt. Vance Chandler.
The March 18 killing sparked two weeks of protests and calls for police reform.
In both body camera videos released after the shooting, an officer can be heard saying, "Hey, mute," then the video goes silent and officers talk among themselves, reports CBS Sacramento. One officer is heard saying, "You guys good?" before the audio cuts out.
Last month, the president of the NAACP's Sacramento chapter pointedly questioned department policy during an emotionally charged press conference, the station reported.
"Why was the audio turned off after the shooting? What was the protocol for turning off the audio?" Betty Williams said.
Williams told the station last month, "That creates an additional layer of mistrust, as if, 'We need hide something.'"
Chandler said the department is still investigating who told the officer to turn the mic off and whether that individual is a supervisor, who turned the mic off and if that decision was appropriate.
Body camera use is covered in training but officers haven't received any written direction on when the equipment can be turned off until now, Chandler said. He couldn't immediately provide details on what directives officers were given during training.
Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn previously said officers should only turn off their microphones when having personal conversations or dealing with a confidential informant.
"Regardless of what the reason was for muting the mic in that instance, it still bred more mistrust and that is another chip away at the trust in general that we have between the police department and the community," he said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
The new memo says officers can turn off their cameras while dealing with a victim of sexual assault or if a supervisor instructs them to do so.
Officers can also turn off the equipment if a victim or witness is refusing to provide a statement on camera and the situation is non-confrontational, or when speaking to a doctor, nurse or paramedic.
The city is this week also announced $1 million in grants designed entice technology startup companies, with an emphasis toward steering them to lower-income areas like the Meadowview neighborhood where Clark was killed.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg said in a statement that the city hopes "to spur innovation and economic opportunity in neighborhoods that have been disconnected from the economic growth in the central city."
Activists have called for more investment in lower-income areas in the wake of Clark's shooting.