Major League Baseball fans know that the best thing to happen to the sport, with the exception of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's retirement, is the adoption of replay review of umpire calls.
Managers can now get a second opinion by simply requesting that officials in the booth review the videotape of the play and uphold or reverse the call of the umpire. It is awkward to watch, but it has made umpiring more accurate. Police departments around the nation, Piedmont included, are doing something similar through the adoption of body-worn cameras (BWC) by patrol officers.
BWC are worn on an officer's uniform and activated to provide accurate audio/video documentation of encounters with the public. BWC are not a crime prevention tool but are meant to document police-public interactions in the event an incident occurs. A study found that 93 percent of the police misconduct cases where video was available were exonerated and 50 percent of complaints were immediately withdrawn when the complainant learned of the existence of video evidence. This level of surveillance is unprecedented and police departments are adopting BWC protocols to ensure public acceptance.
The Piedmont Public Safety Committee recently reviewed the police department's BWC policy No. 450 and had some questions for police Chief Rikki Goede.
First, the details. BWC are to be activated during enforcement and investigative contacts and criminal investigations and officers are encouraged to activate their BWC in nonenforcement contacts. Officers are not required to inform the public that they are being videotaped. Recordings can be reviewed by officers and redacted when the recordings contain personal/private conversations unrelated to an investigation. Supervisor approval is needed for an officer to review recordings that are part of an investigation. Media personnel can review the recordings as well with permission from the police chief or chief's designee. The public can review a recording by filing a public records request. All routine recordings are stored for one year.
The committee had questions for the chief about getting a release by the public when recordings are used for training purposes and about notification when officers enter a residence. The chief indicated that revisions to the protocol to address these issues were being developed. BWC should be in operation in Piedmont by mid-September, so, if you don't already, smile next time you talk to an officer -- you're probably on camera.
Traffic plan: "Get involved -- these are your streets and sidewalks. Your voice is important!" This has been the plea of the Piedmont Planning Department these past six months and Piedmonters listened.
After multiple hearings, workshops and online surveys, the draft Pedestrian and Bike Master Plan (PBMP) is out for public comment. The document consists of a summary of public input and responses and an action plan that outlines high- and low-priority projects for the 10-year plan. The six high-priority projects identified in the PBMP are: enhanced street crossings at key locations; road diets for Grand and Highland avenues; sidewalk railings on the Oakland Avenue Bridge; reconfiguration of the Highland Avenue bend; and a designated bikeway network through the city.
Enhanced crosswalk safety was the largest need identified in the surveys. Crosswalks on Grand, Oakland, Magnolia and Highland nearest the schools make up half the list of prioritized crosswalks. Sidewalk bulb-outs, mid-crosswalk islands and better striping are options for crosswalk improvement. Road diets on Grand and Highland would reduce the four-lane sections of these streets to three with a central turning lane, with the reclaimed roadway being used for bike lanes. A designated bike network would add signage and striping to specific streets throughout Piedmont. Reconfiguration of Highland Avenue would consist of a detailed, area-specific traffic study and subsequent reconfiguration of the street.
The master plan also recommends programs that city departments can implement, such as Safe Route to School awareness, safety and education programs on vehicle and bicycle operation and promotion and encouragement programs for walking and biking. Surprisingly, the master plan does not recommend lowering speed limits in town even though this was one of the major concerns expressed by the public in the assessment process.
The master plan's vision is bigger than its wallet and the City Council will need to make some choices about what to fund.
For now, though, review the draft PBMP at http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/publicworks/docs/planning/bike-ped/2014-08-08-draft_pbmp.pdf and comment. There will be a public hearing on the draft PBMP before the Planning Commission at 5 p.m. Monday in the City Council Chambers.
Garrett Keating is a former member of the Piedmont City Council.