Irvine Police Department’s Camera Upgrade Contract Gets City Council’s Approval

A judge's gavel.

On March 09, 2021, the Irvine City Council accepted an agreement with Axon Enterprise about mobile video and body camera tools for the department. The agreement amount of $3.30 million will be taken from the Irvine police funding of $98 million.


Around $300,000 of that $3.30 million will be saved for contingency finance in case any problems emerge.


Besides the physical tools including body cameras and cameras integrated into patrol vehicles, Irvin city needs Digital Evidence Management (DEM) Software to store the recorded information. The city police department will integrate video surveillance tools from Axon into its rooms used for interview purposes.


In a recent presentation to this city’s council, Chief of Police for the IPD, namely Mike Hamel, said that the agreement would be paid in the coming five years.


The recent approval of the council offers the IPD permission to go ahead with the cameras’ physical deployment from June to September 2021.


Hamel said in the presentation that the department would enter the system configuration phase and training stage this April/May. He also said that the department expects to receive the cameras that would be delivered at the start of May.


Mayor of Irvine, Farrah Khan supports the investment into those tools. Khan said that she talked to community organizations before her election as mayor. At the same time, she highlighted that her communication in the community led to positive feedback on the notion of cops using body cameras.


Following the protests centered on Black Lives Matter in Irvine, Khan held talks with several African-American community members in this city. There were meetings with more than 40 to 45 individuals. In one of those meetings with Irvine’s police chief, there was a request for initiating body cameras.


Anyhow, on March 09, the support was barely present from the e-comments and public comment of the council about the latest agenda item.


All of the speakers who phoned in for comments were against the item. There was opposition from half of the e-comments to the body camera program, whereas one of those turned out to be neutral.


Besides the City councilpersons, just a single e-commentator expressed support for the department’s program.


Sylvester Ani, who was among the few callers, expressed his opposition to that investment when making public comments. Ani highlighted that those body-worn devices do not keep crime from happening. With the cameras, there would be an overinvestment in this policing system that does not deter crime, said Ani during the call.


The department has utilized dashboard cameras in cop cars for the previous three decades. However, when it comes to wearables, other cities in Orange County, such as Santa Ana and Huntington Beach, are ahead of Irvine.


The city’s Human Resources and Innovation Director, namely Jimmee Medina, and Hamel have filed a request for city council action. In it, the analysis from the IPD suggests that over 50% of cops in OC use body cameras.


More than 70% of Orange County government agencies responsible for law enforcement have already executed or are implementing those camera programs.


The said analysis also offers references for the services of Axon Enterprise, which were filed by the police departments of Burbank, Santa Monica, and Garden Grove.


In the March 09 presentation given to the city council, the IPD’s business services manager, namely Jade Mazzio, offered a more comprehensive look at the IPD’s latest surveillance technology-related features.


Mazzio elucidated that those body cameras would work together with the cops’ taser. That means in the event of the taser being taken out of its holster, then it would activate that cop’s front-facing camera worn on the body.


Anyhow, the action of removing the firearm of the officer would not make the camera active. Instead, that cop would have to press a purpose-built button to activate their camera.


The taser would automatically make the camera active, said Mazzio. The event of the firearm being drawn, would not automatically have the same effect as mentioned above. The department considered adding an equipment piece to the firearm’s holster that would possibly activate the camera on that weapon’s draw. However, according to the references about the particular piece of police technology that the department inspected, there were technological issues that the IPD felt requires slightly more development prior to its implementation.


Karie Davies, a Sergeant at the IPD, stated that the process of installing the cameras possibly would take place this July.


Davies wrote that Chief Hamel offered the approximate rollout time of April or May 2021 to allow spending more time training officers on that system. There is a policy that has a projected time of July so that field staff could take their work live with those cameras. Davies also highlighted the fact that those are approximate dates likely to be changed. The department would publish the plan on its online site when the system goes live.


As per the Irvine Police Department’s policy about the process of releasing video images that public safety officers collect, the videos and images are for its official use. The policy, updated last December, states that there will be a protocol for the surveillance footage identical to the protocol for the IPD’s public record requests.


Under that IPD policy, it is important to process the requests for the video images that the media or public recorded, identically to the ones for this department’s public records. The requests for the release of recorded images, coming from other government agencies responsible for enforcement of the law, shall be directed to the IPD watch commander. The release thereof shall be according to a legitimate and specific purpose of law enforcement. Further, the policy states that the processing of taped video images, which are subject to a subpoena or court order, shall happen according to the set department subpoena procedure.


It is not clear in what way this policy would change with Axon Enterprise services’ execution.