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Public Safety

San Diego County Will Take Bids For Body Cameras For Sheriff's Deputies

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore is shown talking with visitors at the County Administration building in downtown San Diego on Jan. 5, 2015.
Angela Carone
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore is shown talking with visitors at the County Administration building in downtown San Diego on Jan. 5, 2015.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to begin taking bids for cameras that sheriff's deputies can wear on their uniforms.

Law enforcement agencies in the San Diego region and across the country are starting to acquire the cameras so that officers can record interactions with the public. Sheriff Bill Gore wrote in his proposal that the devices, sometimes called "body-worn cameras," increase accountability on the part of both officers and the public.

Many agencies that use cameras have seen improvement in officer performance as well as the conduct of the community members who are recorded.

"This is a partnership," Gore said. "The whole purpose is to increase that trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve."

Crime scene recordings can provide investigators, prosecutors and juries with detailed, accurate and compelling evidence, and could be used in training sessions, he said.

Outfitting the department's personnel with the cameras and accessories is expected to cost more than $1 million a year, not including the cost of storing the recordings electronically, according to the sheriff.

Gore's proposal calls for staff to solicit bids from companies for demonstration systems; a vendor would be selected after testing. Policies and procedures regarding the cameras would be vetted before they are field-tested, he said.

"I think this is a great balance between protecting our deputy sheriffs and maintaining the strong trust we have throughout the county," Supervisor Dave Roberts said.

The San Diego Police Department has been outfitting hundreds of its officers with the cameras for nearly a year now.

The SDPD's decision to purchase the devices stemmed from a series of embarrassing incidents in which officers either abused, or were accused of abusing, members of the public.

One of those officers was sentenced to prison for soliciting sexual favors from women he pulled over for alleged drunken driving in the Gaslamp Quarter. Another was jailed after being convicted of illegally detaining four women while on duty.

Police officials are also hoping that the presence of cameras will deter confrontations that lead to controversial shootings like those in New York and Ferguson, Missouri, that sparked nationwide protests, and reduce complaints of alleged racial profiling during vehicle stops.

"The body cameras are extremely helpful," SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman said last week. "We're also hearing from our Independent Citizens Review Board on Police Practices that they're finding the body cameras are very beneficial to finding out exactly what happened (in incidents that led to a complaint)."

She said she would provide initial statistics on the cameras at a City Council committee meeting later this month.

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