In efforts that stretch back to 2012, the Board of Supervisors has worked to provide the necessary policies, funding, and staffing to allow for the swift implementation and operation of the body worn camera program by the LA County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), and request that the program be implemented immediately. The implementation timetable to roll out body worn cameras is the sole responsibility of LASD. However, despite proactive efforts by the Board, such as setting aside nearly $35 million to equip 5,200 deputies and security officers with devices over the next two years, the program has yet to be implemented—notwithstanding the Board’s clear commitment to this technology being deployed.
“In discussions about law enforcement accountability and greater transparency, which, frankly, come amid nationwide unrest over police brutality and use of deadly force, implementation of body worn cameras must be a priority for LASD,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose 2012 motion advanced body worn cameras. “The record is clear, the Board has been on this issue since 2012 and taken seriously its responsibility to see that there is greater accountability for the LA County Sheriff’s Department, we ask they meet our efforts and do the same—to make this program a reality.”
As part of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence (CCJV) 2012 recommendations on the need to curb excessive uses of force by law enforcement, the Board approved a motion authored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, which included the use of body-worn cameras. Since then, the Board has approved subsequent motions to move the program forward and most recently, on September 2019, directed the Sheriff to implement the Body Worn Camera program and appointed the Office of Inspector General to monitor implementation.
“The Board of Supervisors and the Chief Executive Office are steadfast supporters of the Body Worn Camera program and have long championed this technology as an essential investment in law enforcement transparency and accountability,” said Sachi Hamai, Chief Executive Officer of Los Angeles County “Over the past three years, the Board has proactively set aside $34.78 million in a dedicated account to support this program, and on September 24, 2019, unanimously approved a motion to authorize the Sheriff’s Department to implement this project. The Sheriff’s Department has sole responsibility for the implementation timetable to roll out body worn cameras, including the procurement and implementation process.”
LASD’s engagement on Body Worn Camera’s implementation and policy is long overdue. Los Angeles County Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Civilian Oversight Commission (COC) have given specific feedback to update and strengthen policies that would enhance the use and efficacy of Body Worn Cameras, such as the reviewing and releasing of camera footage, but these issues remain unaddressed.
“Since its inception, the OIG has monitored the Department’s slow progress on video supervision. In September of 2015, the OIG issued a detailed analysis of the proposed body worn camera policy. Before the current Sheriff began his campaign for office, the OIG encouraged LASD to implement a full body worn camera program and the County began a lengthy process of assessing the cost of such a program,” said Max Huntsman, Executive Director of the Office of Inspector General. “The Sheriff’s engagement on policy is welcomed and long overdue. While he did make a campaign pledge to implement body cams, it was only because the CCJV had pushed for the reform, the Inspector General championed it, and the Board had begun the process of planning and funding.”
Oversight experts have also called for the immediate implementation of the Body Worn Cameras by LASD. “Body worn cameras are a critical tool which directly address the issues of accountability and transparency. The Civilian Oversight Commission wrote this in our Body Worn Camera Report of July 2018 and again in our policy update of April 2020,” said Brian Williams, Executive Director of the Civilian Oversight Commission. “Every effort must be made to equip the LASD with this important tool. Our community has waited long enough.”