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LA Deputies To Begin Wearing Body Cameras Later This Year

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – As the George Floyd protests heighten issues of law enforcement accountability, officials announced Tuesday that Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies will finally begin wearing body cameras later this year.

Body-Cam Footage Shows LAPD Officer Punching Suspect In Boyle Heights
Body camera footage of an Los Angeles police officer punching a suspect during an arrest on April 27, 2020, in Boyle Heights, Calif. (LAPD)

The L.A. County Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a report Tuesday in which it said that deputies would begin wearing the cameras in the third quarter of this year, meaning sometime this fall.

The sheriff's department has received $34.7 million in funding to equip all its deputies with body cameras, according to the report. The contract with the vendor providing the cameras is still being negotiated, according to the OIG.

"LASD has lagged far behind other major police agencies in the incorporation of video technology as a means for police supervision and public accountability," LA Inspector General Max Huntsman wrote in his report. "This step forward, slow as it is, is historic."

Los Angeles police officers began using body cameras in 2015. In April of 2018, the LAPD began releasing bodycam footage to the public from officer-involved shootings.

Deputies will be required to upload their body camera recordings to a secure server at the end of each shift. The OIG report cited issues with a body cam policy which has been negotiated between the unions, the Civilian Oversight Commission and LASD.

"There are concerns that the policy grants supervisors and deputies too much discretion in deciding when to turn on or off a body-worn camera and that there is no real accountability for a deputy failing to activate the body- worn camera," according to the OIG report.

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Speaking during a Monday town hall with Palmdale and Lancaster residents, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Lancaster would be in the first group of five stations to get the new technology. The sheriff blamed his predecessors and the Board of Supervisors for the delay, and said body cameras have been his priority since day one.

"The previous administration had five years...of wasted time, wasted opportunities and four different plans, four different studies and nothing ever came to fruition," Villanueva said Monday.

A pilot program for the Sheriff's Department was launched in 2014, but plans for a broader roll-out seemed to stall under the weight of questions about when and how to release recordings to deputies and the public, as well as how to pay for storing and managing extensive amounts of data.

"Implementing body-worn cameras is an immediate necessity," the report concludes. "Having cameras and a robust policy for their use, data classification and data storage will promote transparency and public trust."

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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