By Michael G. Stogner
Every Resident of San Mateo County should be asking the same Question.
This Open Letter was published today in the Half Moon Bay Review.
Nov 25, 2020
Dear San Mateo County Sheriff Bolanos,
As you are well aware, your deputies wear a Body Worn Camera system whenever they are on patrol. The taxpayers of San Mateo County bought these camera systems for your deputies so that in the case of contentious incidents, like one here in Half Moon Bay on May 5, we would be able to review for ourselves what actually happened; this as opposed to simply being given a narrative from your office with no way to validate its authenticity.
Unfortunately, we don’t have any video for the May 5 shooting of Sandra Harmon from the deputy who initiated the encounter and who fired the bulk (11 out of 14) of shots at Harmon, including the fatal shot to her back. Your office says this is because he turned off his camera before approaching the RV behind Pasta Moon (against procedure) and, oops, we’re sorry about that. You haven’t even bothered to give us a reason his mobile camera and audio was “off” as well.
I’d like to believe you. I’d like to believe the deputy’s version of events. But as someone famous once said: Trust, but verify. As it turns out we actually can verify at least one part of your story — whether the BWC was in fact turned off by the deputy prior to the encounter. The company that makes the cameras and hosts the video files also keeps a log file for every camera, basically forever, allowing a review of the status of any given camera at any given time.
Thus we, the public and your employers, can know if the statement that the cameras were off is in fact true or false, and your office has control of the file that will enlighten us.
Yet you refuse to do so. Not less than four Public Records Act requests, including one from the city of Half Moon Bay itself, have been rebuffed by your attorneys. Most curiously, if the video confirms your version of events, then it would seem to be in your interest to release it to the public at the earliest possible opportunity. Yet you have not done this.
Which makes most people wonder what you are hiding?
I’m not writing to ask you for the log file again. You’ve already refused quite stridently in previous requests. Instead, I’m writing this letter to ask you firmly but respectfully to provide the entire community, here in the Opinion page of the Review, an answer as to why you won’t release the log files.
Please don’t say they are confidential. They are not. On footage from other BWC in use that day you released the actual video. If the video the cameras record isn’t confidential, then how can you possibly argue that a simple file with numbers and times that indicate the status of the cameras at any time is confidential?
Please don’t say you don’t want to set a bad precedent. That would be an insult to the communities you serve.
Please just tell us the truth and tell us why you won’t release the log file to the public.
Thank you in advance for your prompt response to this message.
David Eblovi lives in Half Moon Bay.