Here’s some good news from Southern California:

The use of body cameras by San Diego police has led to fewer complaints by residents and less use of force by officers, according to a city report released Wednesday.
Complaints have fallen 40.5% and use of “personal body” force by officers has been reduced by 46.5% and use of pepper spray by 30.5%, according to the report developed by the Police Department for the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee.
By year’s end, the department plans to have nearly 1,000 officers equipped with the small cameras, including patrol officers, gang-unit officers and motorcycle officers. Currently, 600 officers have the cameras.
The department began testing the use of body cameras in January 2014, two months before city leaders called for an audit of the department’s managerial practices by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The report from that audit was released Tuesday. Among its recommendations was that the department give body cameras to its officers.

This is a much more robust experiment than the one recently conducted in Denver.

There are still some issues to be worked out. One important one is determining how much and under what conditions video footage will be released to the public. As I wrote in October, the police department has tried to take the position that the footage isn’t part of the public record. That means that it would be solely up to the police department to decide when to release a video. It basically amounts to a “just trust us” approach that raises some real issues of accountability and transparency. It isn’t difficult, for example, to envision a police chief releasing video when it exonerates an officer but keeping the video under wraps when it implicates one.

There are certainly some privacy concerns, too. We don’t want body cameras turning into a mass, walking surveillance system. But we also can’t give the same agency the cameras are meant to monitor the sole authority to decide how transparent it wants to be about the footage those cameras produce.