LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors signed off Tuesday on a plan to buy body-worn cameras for patrol deputies, subject to receiving a written policy from Sheriff Alex Villanueva governing their use.
Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis co-authored a motion to approve nearly $35 million in funding for the cameras, as recommended by Villanueva and CEO Sachi Hamai. [View the motion here.]
However, before the Sheriff’s Department can reach out to vendors for bids, Villanueva must submit a policy that addresses:
— when sworn personnel are allowed to turn their equipment on or off;
— if and when sworn personnel should be allowed to review footage before writing their first report of an incident;
— what video footage will be released to the public, and on what timeline;
— the use of facial recognition technology; and
— the consequences for violating or failing to comply with policy.
The motion was approved without any comment from board members.
Purchase and implementation of the cameras is anticipated to take two to three years, including the bidding process, according to an earlier department report.
Villanueva, in a July letter to the CEO, said the cameras were “long overdue” and would “add a new means for achieving fair and impartial treatment of persons who become involved in the criminal justice system.” They will also allow the department to assess its own performance in critical incidents, the sheriff said.
The Lancaster, Century, Lakewood, Industry and West Hollywood stations are slated to be the first batch of patrol stations where deputies will be outfitted with cameras.
It will take about 19 months to roll out the devices to more than 5,200 deputies and security officers operating out of 58 patrol stations and sub-stations, 84 county facilities and nine community colleges, according to Hamai.
Full roll-out is expected sometime in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022.
The department ran its first test of the devices in 2011 in its custody division and decided stationary cameras would do a better job in that environment. Plans for patrol deputies to use cameras ran aground when former sheriff Jim McDonnell asked for $55 million in funding and 239 new personnel.
Villanueva said those higher costs were due to assumptions that investigators would review video for every case they were assigned and that any video would be released to the public upon request. Neither of those policies are consistent with other large law enforcement agencies statewide, according to Villanueva.
The board also approved the hire of 33 new full-time employees to run the camera program.
The Los Angeles Police Department first deployed body-worn cameras in 2015, rolling them out in a multi-year program.
Previous related story: LA County takes next step toward deputy body-worn cameras