The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has developed a plan to equip nearly 6,000 deputies with body cameras and policies for their use, according to Southern California Public Radio.
Under the plan, the first year would be devoted to identifying a body camera vendor and get necessary infrastructure in place. In the second year, body cameras would be deployed at a half-dozen sheriff’s stations, with high-crime areas getting priority.
For the nation’s largest sheriff’s department to fully get on board with the use of body cameras will certainly be a welcome development once it’s completed, considering the opportunities for greater public trust in law enforcement that body cameras provide.
But there are a few challenges, especially with the price tag of the proposal.
According to KPCC, the sheriff’s proposal would permit the release of body camera footage “unless it involves incidents still under investigation or would violate someone’s privacy.” To accomplish this, the department would need to hire and train hundreds of new employees to prepare footage for release.
The plan as-is would cost the county an estimated $55 million a year. The cost of the proposal will understandably give the county Board of Supervisors a lot to mull over. Considering the importance of having a body camera policy that is “affordable and practical,” as the county’s inspector general put it, we encourage the board to determine if there are ways to bring the cost down without compromising valuable transparency.
Also still being worked out is whether the department will allow deputies involved in critical incidents like shootings to review footage before giving a statement. While the deputies’ union argues deputies should be able to review footage first, the inspector general recommended deputies be required to “complete initial reports or interviews concerning a use of force before viewing any video evidence of the incident.”
The recommendation of the inspector general is predicated on the idea that public confidence is better served by requiring deputies to give their observations independent from the video. Sheriff Jim McDonnell has indicated he is inclined toward this view as well, and we recommend that become the established policy.
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