Isla Vista Foot Patrol deputies are among the first Sheriff’s officials in the county to sport body cameras. Six of the 23 Foot Patrol officers — made up of Sheriff’s deputies and UCSB police officers — already have the devices, and the remainder are expected to get the cameras by the end of next month after a few technical issues are ironed out.
As part of a pilot program, the Sheriff’s Office purchased 40 devices in October to test out two models and determine if they would eventually equip all of their sworn personnel. According to Sheriff’s spokesperson Kelly Hoover, many of the purchased cameras have not been deployed and are still being prepared for use. If the Sheriff’s Office decides to buy body cameras for all sworn personnel, Hoover went on, they have not determined how they would fund the devices — priced at about $300 to $550 each. How to maintain the large volume of footage captured would also have to be hashed out.
Foot Patrol’s Lt. Rob Plastino said college students are typically “on the forefront of their rights” and tend to be proponents of the cameras. The devices could also be useful in documenting crimes, and the footage is handled just like any other piece of physical evidence, he added. Last year’s Deltopia riots and shooting rampage heightened their interest in the cameras, Plastino said. Typically, law enforcement officers are expected to have the cameras turned on for every contact. “That’s pretty much the entire shift [for Foot Patrol deputies],” Plastino added.
Activists nationwide have called for officer-mounted cameras to increase transparency in law enforcement after the death of Michael Brown. President Barack Obama proposed a program last month to grant federal dollars to local law enforcement agencies to help pay for more than 50,000 devices nationwide.