Board Authorizes Implementing Body-Worn Cameras

The Board of Supervisors voted to begin implementing a much-anticipated program to equip the Sheriff’s Department with body-worn cameras.

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis, the program will first pilot in five stations, one in each Supervisorial office, before expanding countywide. The goal is to have all deputies equipped with this technology, as well as to have footage from the body-cameras shared with the District Attorney, Public Defender and the Acting Alternate Public Defender.

As part of implementation, the Board authorized the Sheriff to phase in technology infrastructure upgrades at patrol stations and other locations. Additionally, the County will move forward with a procurement process for the body-worn camera device and digital management system, as well as hiring additional Sheriff Department staff.

The County Chief Executive Officer has set aside $35 million for the program.

The Board also requested that the Sheriff lay out the policies that would govern the use of body-worn cameras to both the Civilian Oversight Commission (COC) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the outset. Both oversight agencies have done reports supportive of this technology, as well as made policy recommendations to ensure effective and transparent implementation.

“Body-worn cameras are an essential component of 21st century constitutional policing,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “These devices can help increase transparency in law enforcement, improve both officer and citizen conduct, and ultimately improve police and community relations.”

“I have been a longtime advocate for body worn cameras. We know that when body camera policies are focused on building trust between the community and law enforcement, they have been found effective in reducing community complaints as well as excessive and unnecessary uses of force,” said Supervisor Solis. “Implementation of this new technology requires that the public, the Office of the Inspector General, the Civilian Oversight Commission, and the Board of Supervisors have an opportunity to view and weigh in on the Sheriff’s body camera policies. Together, we will work towards ensuring that the use of this technology aligns with our shared goals to increase transparency, accountability, and trust between our communities and the Sheriff’s Department.”

The OIG would monitor the implementation of the program, in consultation with the Sheriff, Public Defender, Acting Alternate Public Defender, District Attorney, Chief Executive Officer, County Counsel and the COC Executive Director.

“Body worn cameras are necessary equipment for modern urban policing,” Inspector General Max Huntsman said. “When the government uses force, the public has a right to see what happened.”

“After years of work on this issue, we’re happy to see progress on the implementation of the body-worn camera program,” said COC Executive Director Brian Williams. “We’re looking forward to reviewing the final body-worn camera policy from the Sheriff’s Department.”

In 2012, the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence (CCJV) was the first entity to recommend that the Sheriff’s Department use “lapel cameras as an investigative tool” to address problematic use of force.

In 2015, the Office of Inspector General echoed CCJV’s recommendations. In July 2018, the Civilian Oversight Commission (CoC) recommended implementing a body-worn camera program over two years. These recommendations were informed by national research, several community town halls, and over 2,500 survey responses.

In August 2018, Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Solis called for hiring an independent consultant to provide expert analysis. The International Association of Chiefs of Police issued its report last month that validated the COC and OIG’s recommendations and cost projections.