Some sheriff’s department deputies — including those in West Hollywood —will be wearing body-worn cameras in the field starting Thursday evening, according to Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
The sheriff’s department’s Century, Lancaster, Lakewood, Industry and West Hollywood stations are the first to be trained and equipped with the cameras, according to Villanueva.
The Compton and East Los Angeles stations will be trained and equipped next, followed by all other stations over the next 18 months.
“My first week in office, we started working towards the implementation of body-worn cameras for (the sheriff’s department),” Villanueva said on Twitter Thursday. “Today, that became a reality when we kicked off our very first (body-worn camera) equipment issue and training class.”
The department received its first shipment of cameras on Sept. 2, one day after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to transfer $25.5 million to the sheriff’s department to fund the rollout of body-worn cameras to patrol deputies over the next year.
“This will help strengthen our bonds of trust and bring increased transparency,” the sheriff’s department said on Twitter last month.
The board had already set aside $35 million for the cameras without releasing that money to the department. Supervisors Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger co-authored a motion calling for a transfer of funds sufficient to cover the first year of operations.
“Body-worn cameras are an important tool for transparency and I have been advocating to get them to our sheriff’s deputies since Sheriff Jim McDonnell was in office,” Hahn said. “The videos these cameras capture will give us a clearer understanding of what actually happens in the interactions between our deputies and members of the public.”
The first pilot of body-worn cameras by the Sheriff’s Department in 2014 predated Hahn’s election to the board, as well as Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s tenure. The sheriff has blamed his predecessor and the board for spending too much time reviewing the problem and potential solutions, while board members have pointed out that the sheriff has had control of the procurement and implementation process. It is just one of many public disagreements between Villaneuva and the board.
Hahn said the transfer would allow the department to move forward without any “extra red tape.”
The value of video footage couldn’t be clearer at a time when protesters nationwide have been enraged into action by the images of George Floyd, a 45-year-old Black man, fighting to breathe while held down by the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer now charged with murder.
Multiple supervisors noted that the presence of cameras doesn’t necessarily prevent violence.
“These body-worn cameras, they don’t solve everything, but they put a lot of things in perspective,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said.
Hahn said cameras need to be accompanied by “real accountability, real reform and real reflection.”
If the cameras are consistently turned on and non-graphic footage is released in a timely fashion when legitimately requested they will be of utility.
Fingers crossed since Villanueva is not acting to mandate either and his behavior to date does not bode well.