Located at the southern end of the Salinas Valley, King City in Monterey County is the first California city to outfit all of its police officers with cameras—on their guns. That's despite the city of just over 14,000 residents having no officer-involved shootings in recent memory.
King City officials say the new technology is one more step towards transparency.
“A large concern with body [cameras] is an officer's standard stance tends to cover the body cam,” said Robert Masterson, King City’s police chief. “And that's a critical piece of information that a jury, quite frankly, is now demanding to see.”
Like most large law enforcement agencies and police departments across the country, King City officers already wear body cameras. But because of where those cameras are worn, they often don’t capture what needs to be recorded.
“This puts a camera and a point of view right where the barrel’s engaged,” Masterson said. “And if we're shooting at the suspect, you're getting us shooting at the suspect. You're getting us why we're shooting at the suspect, more importantly.”
Masterson said he started looking at adding weapon-mounted cameras to the department's standard equipment in early 2019. The cameras instantly turn on as soon as an officer’s gun comes out of its holster. After testing a unit for six months, the department got the city council’s nod to spend $12,000 to get one of the weapon-mounted cameras for each of King City’s 17 sworn officers. The chief’s view is that law enforcement needs to keep up with the latest technology.
“Because that is the world we're living in,” Masterson said. “People want to see things. I truly don't believe...it's not that they don't trust most law enforcement officers, but in today's technology, if you don't have the ability or take advantage of the ability to capture things on video, the first question for most people is, why not?”
Brian Hadeen leads the company that makes the weapon-mounted cameras. Previously, the company manufactured laser sights and other gun accessories. But then came the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown.
“It was right after that that we had the idea to use our technology—which would turn on a device out of a holster—to apply that and use a camera,” Hadeen said. “And what's interesting is that we didn't really know that there'd be so many of these controversial shootings, that would keep happening over and over and over. After Ferguson.”
All King City police officers started carrying the new weapon-mounted cameras on June 25.
While the force is the first California police department to fully roll out the use of the technology, the Los Angeles Port Authority and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office are looking at adopting the new technology as well.