Credit: Santa Barbara Police Department

Santa Barbara’s police force will now be recording all interactions via brand-new body cams, which began in a test phase last July and were implemented for all field officers over two months starting at the end of 2021, according to Santa Barbara Police Department Public Information Officer Ethan Ragsdale.

The push for the body-worn cameras started with former Santa Barbara police chief Cam Sanchez in 2015, when the department purchased a set of five cameras to explore the idea, and then expanded into a wider test-run at the end of Lori Luhnow’s time as chief a year ago.

The cameras are to be worn in a “conspicuous place,” Ragsdale said, attached to the outside of the officer’s uniform, typically in the center of their chests. All officers are required to turn on the camera and record “during all enforcement and investigative contacts, including stops and field interview situations.”

Starting last December, the police department began outfitting its patrol officers with the cameras, and over the course of two months, all patrol officers and a majority of other sworn personnel have been issued and are wearing the cameras in the field.

“Although not a panacea for all problems police face, body worn cameras have been shown to provide positive outcomes to both officers and community members,” Ragsdale said. “ Research suggests officers are able to capture valuable evidence, and generally both officers and community members are in favor of body worn cameras.”

He added that body cams have also been shown to reduce complaints against police officers and instances of police use of force. “All of this will bolster the relationship between the diverse communities of Santa Barbara and the police officers who serve them,” he said.

The city website’s department policies section provides a full review of the Santa Barbara Police Department mobile audio and video recorder policy, and requests for the release of any audio and video recordings will be processed through California Public Records Act and according to the policies of the Police Department.

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