Campus Safety started using body cameras without informing students

Campus Safety began using body cameras Aug. 1 without informing students. (Chloe Ortiz • The Student Life)

Unbeknownst to students, Campus Safety officers have been using body cameras when responding to calls since Aug. 1, according a Campus Safety policy document distributed at an ASPC meeting Thursday. 

Neither Campus Safety nor the individual 5Cs announced the policy had gone into effect.

“These cameras are a useful tool in helping us to record key information during responses to reported crime,” Kim Lane, the then-spokesperson for The Claremont Colleges Services, told TSL in May. “They also allow us to proactively review and assess officers’ actions and interactions so that we can provide appropriate training.”

Campus Safety Director Stan Skipworth did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The policy encourages Campus Safety officers to be transparent about their use of body cameras.

“Officers are encouraged to notify the public that the [camera] is activated and recording. Under most circumstances, notification has shown to aid in diffusing incidents,” the policy said.

Under the policy, all officers must activate their cameras when dispatched on calls involving “actual or potential violations of the law” and may not deactivate them “until the scenario has been stabilized; upon request of the victim; or as ordered by a supervisor.”

The officers have discretion to determine when the situation is “stabilized.”

College administrators can request access to the footage for investigations and it can be used as evidence in Pomona College’s Judicial Board proceedings, according to ASPC President Miguel Delgado PO ’20, who discussed the policy at the ASPC meeting.

Students will be able to tell if the cameras — which officers wear on their chests — are recording if they can see the camera lens, according to Pomona associate dean Ellie Ash-Balá.

Ash-Balá said the cameras could help students, particularly students of color, who have complained to Pomona administrators that they’ve been treated unfairly or racially profiled by Campus Safety officers.

The guidelines also prohibit anyone from making copies of or releasing footage from the cameras without permission and require officers to undergo training before using the cameras.

Campus Safety will store footage for 180 days. Only those with “legitimate law enforcement or administrative purposes” will be permitted to view the footage, according to the policy.

Some students have questioned whether the body cameras will resolve complaints about Campus Safety’s activities, particularly its treatment of students of color.

5C Prison Abolition Club head officers Emma Li SC ’21 and Mackenzie Rutherford SC ’21 and members Jo Choe PO ’21 and Elle Biesemeyer SC ’21 condemned the body camera policy in the spring. 

“Rather than creating systems of accountability, body camera footage has been historically used/ignored to reduce consequences for officers who have committed harm against the very people they are supposed to protect,” they said in a joint statement via email.

“Implementing body cameras jeopardizes the privacy and safety of those who are most surveilled: brown and black students on campus,” the PAC members added.

Ben Jones contributed reporting.

This story was last updated Oct. 4 at 10:56 a.m.

This story was updated Oct. 4 at 12:54 a.m.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Pomona’s Judicial Board can request access to the camera footage. Only administrators can request the footage. TSL regrets this error.
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