Dear DSA Member
Today at the Board of Supervisors, Vice-President Winslow spoke as a representative of the DSA on the proposal by the Board of Supervisors to research the feasibility of equipping the Deputies of the Sheriff’s Office with body worn cameras. Below are the comments given before the public meeting in the allocated two minute period.
During contract negotiations in 2012, the DSA proposed language to set the foundation for video and audio recording devices of all types at the Sheriff’s Office. We recognized the evolution of technology was outpacing both policy and procedures at the Sheriff’s Office. Had the Sheriff and the County engaged the DSA at that time we would have been ahead of the curve on these issues and not playing catch-up.
The evolution and implementation of a body worn camera system should be a methodical process as suggested by Supervisor Simitian.
Of the greatest cost facing many public entities is the cost of retrieval; which includes administrative, evidence, and public records requests. We learned recently that law firms representing cities and counties began advising their clients body worn cameras are subject to CPRA requests.
In 2012 the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) published “A Primer on Body-Worn Cameras for Law Enforcement.” The NIJ stressed the need for significant investments in policy and training and active involvement of groups like the DSA to ensure acceptance and the success of the program.
The Sheriff has ignored recommendations like those from the NIJ and refused to involve the DSA in policy or equipment selection. The Sheriff’s previous request to buy body worn cameras was absent any policy addressing their proper use. Since this proposal was raised by Supervisor Simitian, we also learned the Sheriff has been testing body worn cameras without first notifying or attempting to involve the DSA. These are examples of the continued poor labor relations frustrating our membership.
While body cameras take center stage today, there are bigger problems facing the Sheriff’s Office. Such as our antiquated RMS and dispatch system, increasing injury rates, lack of staffing, lack of training, low morale, lack of modern equipment like tasers, a shrinking pool of qualified Deputy Sheriff candidates, academy failure rates approaching 50%, and wages not able to attract the best and the brightest.
The Board of Supervisors publicly stated their intent to make sure this evaluation process and resulting policy is thorough and well thought out. The DSA will continue to work with the Board of Supervisors to provide input to shape what policy and procedures we eventually will be working under.
– DSA Board –
So, I’ve had a rather lengthy hiatus to deal with some private issues that have taken me away from my normal daily practices. A handful of people have been keeping me up to date on some very interesting things. Most recently we’ve lost an Assistant Sheriff, we’re gaining a new Assistant Sheriff that has a record of incompetence we’ve reviewed here that should be terrifying to the public (even more on this soon), and a new lieutenant who’s greatest accomplishment was getting her body building pro card while raking in workman’s comp pay at the tax payer’s expense because she was so injured she couldn’t get a doctors clearance to do her job. Anyone investigate that? Of course not, our sheriff hold’s people responsible. Ha! The moral of people I’ve talked to has plummeted even further with these latest promotions. Several telling me to not even bother with the blog any longer, it’s a waste of time, nothing will change, nothing will improve. Well, I for one, am not going laying down. Even if I remain nothing more than a thorn in the side, being silent only opens the door for even worse behavior.
But I digress… the DSA has released the above statement today; these are comments that were made to the Board of Supervisors regarding body worn cameras. I’ve known about this issue for some time now as a few people have kept me updated on the issue and the brick wall that has been met when people tried to address this with the Sheriff and her administration over the past 2 years or so. The sheriff, then and apparently right up to today, continues to refuse to work with her personnel to develop policy that will help protect the public, the deputies and the liabilities of the county.
The Sheriff has recently decided that there is political benefit in body cams so she has taken it upon herself to initiate a test program without policy or concern regarding the myriad of privacy issues that exist when you wear a camera everywhere from bathroom to victim’s living room. The Board of Supervisors, at least on the surface, appears to be willing to work towards developing a policy in regards to body worn cams. But why are they and the sheriff failing to work on other critical issues that we have been trying to discuss for ages now — like tasers, RMS, vehicles — of which the sheriff is driving a brand new hemi Dodge Durango while deputies still drive decrepit cars), injury rates and staffing issues. Another question — has the sheriff done anything to reach out to the DSA to work on the issues that caused them to cast a vote of no confidence where a majority of the DSA body voted against the sheriff, not once, but twice? From my understanding the answer to that is a resounding no after more than since 6 months since the election.
Despite the many issues at hand, cameras is the issue that has landed on the table by sheer political luck. While the public and many law enforcement personnel around the nation support the use of body cams, there are issues. CA is a two-party consent state, and that alone raises issues in do we want to allow CPC § 636 exemption to this stand as is at this time? There are several reports and suits available, please educate yourself, citizens, deputies and officers, regarding the policy issues that should be addressed to protect everyone:
A Report on Body Worn Cameras — Eugene P. Ramirez
What Happens When Police Officers Wear Body Cameras – Wall Street Journal
Police Officer Body Warn Cameras — Assessing the Evidence — Michael D. White, PhD