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Body cameras for deputies


The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this week to roll out body cameras for sheriff’s deputies as soon as possible.

Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis recommended the push.

“Implementation in 2018 is too late,” read their motion, which calls for cameras in the field “as soon as feasibly possible.”

The Sheriff’s Department initiated a pilot program at four patrol stations in 2014 and has also allowed deputies to use cameras they purchase on their own. But it has been unable to settle on equipment and related policies for a broader rollout.

The board asked Sheriff Jim McDonnell to come back with a plan for implementation within 120 days.

“Concern about police use of force is very high,” Kuehl said. “We need to better address allegations of misconduct and increase public trust of law enforcement. I believe use of body-worn cameras will help move us in that direction.”

Inspector General Max Huntsman said he was “110 percent” in support of the cameras. “What body cameras will allow us to do is to always be present,” Huntsman said, calling the equipment “an absolutely critical piece of sheriff’s reforms.”

The inspector general also said he was convinced that body-worn cameras would result in more convictions.

Huntsman and members of the board stressed that cameras would also help deputies.

“This protects the officer, it protects the public,” Supervisor Michael Antonovich said, stressing the importance of choosing “a system that is going to be fool-proof.”

Many questions remain as to policies about when and to whom video footage from the cameras would be released. Officials and labor leaders in various jurisdictions have struggled with whether officers should be allowed to review the footage before being interviewed or filing reports on a use-of-force incident, for example.

Huntsman characterized the sheriff’s views on those policies as “very progressive.”

McDonnell has said he supports the use of cameras, but has raised issues about the costs of managing and storing the footage. The cameras will generate an estimated 3,000-5,000 hours of video per day, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

The first phase of the rollout is estimated to cost $14 million, according to board documents.