Oakland Police Delete 25 Percent Of Body-Cam Archives

| by Sam Gravity
A police officer wears a body camera.A police officer wears a body camera.

About one-quarter of all body camera video taken by the Oakland Police Department was accidentally deleted during a software upgrade in 2014, the former head of the camera unit testified at a murder trial on Sept. 13.

City IT workers accidentally erased terabytes of body camera videos when updating the police department’s computer system in October 2014, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Officials say an employee checked a box to “preserve” files from the body camera footage archive rather than “preserve everything,” resulting in about 25 percent of all recorded evidence, which was from the years 2009 to 2014, being erased from the system.

The OPD only came upon the issue a month later, and used metadata to determine the amount of data lost.

Oakland police spokesman Officer Marco Marquez said he could not say exactly how many files were deleted, but the department had not “discovered any cases that have been affected by this incident.”

This statement contradicts what happened in court recently when body camera recordings requested for the murder trial of 66-year-old Judy Salamon could not be found, notes SFist.

Missing recordings could cause additional problems in cases of police misconduct, Bay Area civil rights attorney John Burris told to the San Francisco Chronicle. Burris, whose work focuses on police misconduct, said an attorney would likely want to view past interactions involving an officer accused of misconduct, but wouldn’t be able to retrieve those recordings due to the mass deletion.

Sgt. David Burke testified in court to the deletions in court after Annie Beles, the attorney for defendant Mario Floyd, theorized that body camera video would contradict witness statements given on the day of Salamon’s murder in 2013.

Although officers wore body cameras at the scene of the incident, the videos could not be retrieved due to the data loss.

In May 2015, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest announced the U.S. Department of Justice would begin to fund a $75 million program to equip police with body cameras nationwide, USA Today reports.

Oakland was not one of the cities to be included in the program, but scored well with body camera policy reports by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Upturn in August 2016. The report only gave Oakland poor marks for the categories of footage retainment and access policies, with the criticism that every police department in the country “has room to improve.”

Sources: San Francisco Chronicle, SFist, RTThe Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights & Upturn, USA Today / Photo credit: Twitter/ReadWrite

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