Body-Cam Bill Stalls

Legislature Divided on Wearable Video Cameras for Law Enforcement

Isla Vista Foot Patrol's Deputy Mark Ward, now retired, was one of the first Sheriff's deputies to test the video camera devices.
Paul Wellman (file)

A Republican bill that would require law enforcement agencies to develop policies requiring its personnel to wear body cameras sailed through the State Senate but failed this week on the Assembly floor where many Democrats — including Assemblymember Das Williams — abstained from the vote.

The bill, SB 175, comes at a time when police aggression and body cameras for sworn officers have become major national issues. Authored by Republican Senator Bob Huff, the bill would not mandate body-cams for all officers, but it would give agencies local control in implementing a body-camera policy. The bill is not officially dead, but it will turn into a two-year attempt if the bill is not amended and passed off the Assembly floor before the legislative session ends on September 11.

Williams, according to his office, abstained from the vote because he felt the bill needed more work before it could be implemented. “In particular, Legislators feel that there needs to be a statewide policy with oversight on the matter,” an aide said in an email. “There is a concern that, as people travel around the state, inconsistencies can create problems.”

The bill had support from the California Peace Officers’ Association, California Police Chiefs Association, the City of Santa Barbara, and Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association. State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson voted for the bill when it was before the Senate.

In Santa Barbara County, a handful of Isla Vista Foot Patrol deputies were among the first — along with school resource deputies and personnel assigned to the court — to test out body-mounted cameras as part of a pilot program to determine the best model. Last year, the Sheriff’s Office purchased 40 cameras — priced at about $300-$550 each — but only 18 are being worn so far. According to Sheriff’s spokesperson Kelly Hoover, a large number of the cameras had issues and were sent back to the manufacturer.

Hoover said the department would like to see all deputies equipped with body cameras. “However,” she said, “we understand body cameras are an evolving technology, and there are still issues surrounding funding not only the cost of purchasing the cameras but paying for the storage and administrative costs.”

The Santa Barbara Police Department is also testing a few different kinds of cameras as part of a pilot program. On Monday, Los Angeles Police Department officers will begin a much-anticipated 860-device roll out for many of its officers.


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