The Danville Town Council unanimously approved Tuesday purchasing body cameras for town police officers to start wearing by July.
It will mark the first time Danville Police Department personnel will be equipped with body-worn cameras while on duty -- an operational change that police chief Steve Simpkins thinks will improve crime prevention and officer safety while also promoting increased transparency and accountability for police and the citizens they interact with.
"We feel like this is the right step to take to help us document and investigate crime and accountability on both sides of the fence," Simpkins told the council Tuesday evening at the Town Meeting Hall.
The town is set to buy 35 new body cameras, manufactured by TASER International, that will have a battery life of 12 hours in recording time, capture video at 142 degrees and have pre-recording capability. The devices will easy to operate, easy to download and provide appropriate video and audio quality for use in court, according to Simpkins.
Officials plan to roll out the new cameras for department use by July 1, according to Town Manager Joe Calabrigo.
"I'm very encouraged to see this move forward," Councilman Newell Arnerich said during the meeting in downtown Danville. No residents spoke during the public discussion.
The police chief opened the conversation Tuesday by reminding the council members about a body camera he showed them as a sample during a town goal-setting workshop last month.
"We brought to you an example of the body camera -- how big it is, where it fits on the officer's uniform and the quality of the video taken," Simpkins said.
"Body cameras give us the ability to look back and view incidents and better prepare for court," he added. "These cameras will make our officers' job that much more effective."
Along with describing the benefits, Simpkins was quick to point out potential negative impacts. "The downside is that the video does not tell the entire story; it just gives a complete package of what was seen from that viewpoint," he said.
The video-recordings from the cameras will be retained through storage on iCloud for two years, during which prosecutors and the police chief will be able to access and view immediately, according to Simpkins.
The department's use of body cameras will be governed by the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office policy on mobile audio, video and body-worn cameras, Simpkins said. The town contracts with the sheriff's office for police services.
The camera equipment will cost $58,052 for the initial purchase and then require annual operating costs of $45,115 for ongoing use in the future, according to Simpkins. The annual charges include all data management, unlimited data storage, required maintenance and camera replacement every 30 months, he said.
About three-quarters of the initial purchase cost will be paid for using available town supplemental law enforcement services funds and the remainder will be covered by asset seizure funds, according to town officials. Future costs will become part of the annual police services budget.