Crime & Justice

Sacramento police issue new directive on muting body cameras

In this Feb. 19, 2015 file photo, Steve Tuttle, vice president of communications for Taser International, demonstrates one of the company's body cameras during a company-sponsored conference at the California Highway Patrol Headquarters in Sacramento. Sacramento police have issued a new directive on when officers can turn off body cameras. It comes after two officers muted their microphones minutes after fatally shooting Stephon Clark last month. The new memo, issued last week, was discussed at a Monday, April 9, 2018, police commission meeting.
In this Feb. 19, 2015 file photo, Steve Tuttle, vice president of communications for Taser International, demonstrates one of the company's body cameras during a company-sponsored conference at the California Highway Patrol Headquarters in Sacramento. Sacramento police have issued a new directive on when officers can turn off body cameras. It comes after two officers muted their microphones minutes after fatally shooting Stephon Clark last month. The new memo, issued last week, was discussed at a Monday, April 9, 2018, police commission meeting.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Sacramento police have issued their first written policy on when officers can turn off body cameras after two officers muted their microphones following the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in 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 several minutes after the shooting.

The March 18 killing sparked two weeks of protests and calls for police reform.

The new policy requires officers to verbalize their reason for turning off the microphone.

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, police spokesman Sgt. Vance Chandler. He couldn't immediately provide details on what directives officers were given during training.

The policy was in the works before Clark's shooting but it prompted the department to issue the guidance more quickly, he said.

He said the department still is 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.

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.