Campus Safety officers will start wearing body cameras this fall to help investigations and serve as a measure of accountability for the officers, according to consortium spokesperson Kim Lane.
“These cameras are a useful tool in helping us to record key information during responses to reported crime,” Lane said via email. “They also allow us to proactively review and assess officers’ actions and interactions so that we can provide appropriate training.”
Prior to deciding to implement the program, Campus Safety spoke to several officials at the colleges, Lane said, but didn’t say who.
The policies for the cameras are still being developed, but Campus Safety is striving “to balance individual privacy rights with community safety and transparency,” Lane said. The department is reviewing recommendations from various legal, professional, social and justice organizations.
Pitzer Student Senate President Shivani Kavuluru PZ ’19 and ASPC President Alejandro Guerrero PO ’19 both said they were unaware of the new body camera policy. Other 5C student body presidents didn’t respond to requests for comment.
5C Prison Abolition Collective, an organization that “seeks to deconstruct the conventional idea that imprisonment is the solution to social, economic and political problems,” expressed disappointment that the student community hasn’t had more input so far, “as it will directly affect so many students’ well-being and privacy.”
Campus Safety staff will meet with student and campus leaders to provide more information about body cameras as they grow closer to rolling the system out, Lane said.
PAC head officers Emma Li SC ’21 and Mackenzie Rutherford SC ’21 and members Jo Choe PO ’21 and Elle Biesemeyer SC ’21 condemned the decision.
“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.
PAC said the body cameras “[increase] the scope of [Campus Safety’s] policing power and control over students” and are unlikely to help increase accountability because the footage will likely remain private.
“In order to maintain student privacy, video footage is unlikely to ever be released to the greater community which leaves the task of holding [Campus Safety] accountable in the hands of [Campus Safety],” the PAC members said.
Campus Safety staff and others with “legitimate investigative needs,” including the Claremont Police Department, would have access to the body camera footage, which would be automatically destroyed after 180 days unless Campus Safety is legally required to preserve it, Lane said.
“These cameras are a useful tool in helping us to record key information during responses to reported crime.” — Kim Lane, Claremont Colleges spokesperson
The possibility of body cameras has further stoked concerns about biased policing of students of color on campus.
“Implementing body cameras jeopardizes the privacy and safety of those who are most surveilled: brown and black students on campus,” the PAC members said.
Kavuluru agreed that there is a “legitimate concern of biased reporting.”
“Students and faculty have expressed to me that an increase in cameras around campus would only cause black and brown people to feel like they are being constantly policed,” she said.
The body cameras are the latest in a line of recent additions to Campus Safety’s tools. The department began using drones 16 months ago to assist in emergency and crisis situations, Lane said, as well as to provide additional protection for high-profile visitors.
Campus Safety has also started to use tire lock clamps, more commonly known as boots, on vehicles associated with three or more overdue parking citations.
“Booting is less expensive and more convenient for registered owners than were we to tow the vehicle,” she said. Boots are removed after outstanding tickets are paid, along with a $40 administrative fee to Campus Safety.