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Closer Look: More Police Departments Consider Wearable Cameras

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) - Dashboard cameras, surveillance cameras, and cell phone cameras have caught criminals and police in dangerous, embarrassing and sometimes deadly situations. Video images that show cops beating suspects, and suspects fleeing arrest, are found all over the web.

Law enforcement agencies and rank and file officers have long claimed that these types of images only tell one side of the story.

So, many police agencies are turning to 'body' cameras for their officers. Cops are equipped with small cameras that they wear over the ear or on the lapel. Two months ago Oakland police began issuing lapel cameras. The officer himself switches the camera on before making a traffic stop, or entering a home to serve a search warrant.

San Jose cops tested an over-the-ear recording device for eight months, and while some video was successfully used in court cases, the department discontinued the program because of cost.

Now San Francisco's new police chief Greg Suhr has announced that he wants his officers equipped with a wearable video camera. The city's Police Officer's Union said it has no problem with the concept.

"We have nothing to fear," said POA President Gary Delagnes. "Initially my wish would be that it was a volunteer program, that the cops that wanted to do it, wore the cameras or filmed what they were going to do on a voluntary basis. I think other officers would see eventually that it was a good thing and that it actually benefitted us."

Recently, a handful of San Francisco cops became the target of internal investigations after the release of what the public defender's office said is surveillance video of undercover officers removing items improperly from a down town residential hotel.

Police insiders have indicated to CBS 5 that Chief Suhr, himself a former narcotics cop, hoped the body cameras can show a different side to these types of busts.

The San Francisco Police Commission will have to approve the Chief's plan, including the funding.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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