San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies to wear video cameras soon – San Bernardino Sun

Having overcome what it said were logistical hurdles in its 21,000-square-mile patrol area, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department announced that it will begin equipping its patrol deputies with uniform-mounted cameras this year.

The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Feb. 28, approved a five-year, $6.5 million contract with Axon Enterprises to provide 965 cameras as well as other equipment and technical support. The matter was on the consent calendar and was approved without comments or questions.

The first of five annual payments of $1,312,266.64 is due this month.

The first of the patrol deputies, detectives and supervisors will likely receive cameras in the second quarter of 2023, Sheriff’s spokeswoman Mara Rodriguez said Wednesday. Correctional deputies and members of specialized units such as SWAT will receive them as more equipment becomes available, she said.

Body-worn camera video shows a Riverside County sheriff’s deputy aiming at a suspect in 2021. San Bernardino County deputies will begin wearing the cameras sometime after March 2023, that department announced. (Courtesy of Riverside County Sheriff’s Department)

Rodriguez said the cameras will help improve transparency.

“The biggest thing is being able to show what the deputies are doing out there every day and if there are questions about how something was handled, that gives us additional information not only to put forward to the public but also to our supervisors. It’s definitely going to benefit the public as well as ourselves,” Rodriguez said.

The cameras have limitations: They can break, malfunction, don’t always see what the officer sees and won’t record if officers don’t activate them.

The department will become the last of Southern California’s sheriff’s departments to acquire the cameras, following San Diego in 2017, Riverside in 2018 and Orange and Los Angeles in 2021. The cities of Corona, Chino, Indio, Palm Springs, Rialto, San Bernardino and Fontana began using them in 2016, followed by Riverside in 2017.

San Bernardino had a test launch of the cameras in 2018 at the Apple Valley and Highland stations. Some Apple Valley deputies had difficulty transmitting the video from their High Desert station to the department’s servers. That and a lack of server storage delayed the rollout in the nation’s largest county by size.

Sheriff Shannon Dicus, in a September 2021 interview, said those issues had been overcome and that he expected to roll out the cameras before the end of the winter. That didn’t happen, but now, videos will be uploaded to the online cloud, which will eliminate the technical troubles, Rodriguez said.

The absence of the cameras was notable last September when deputies at the end of a pursuit engaged in a gun battle with Fontana kidnapping suspect Anthony John Graziano alongside the 15 Freeway in Hesperia, during which Graziano was killed, as was his 15-year-old daughter, Savannah, as she ran from the car toward deputies.

Questions were raised as to whether the teen was fleeing danger or intending to harm deputies. She was wearing chest armor and a tactical helmet, Dicus said at the time, and was unrecognizable to deputies. Dicus later described the girl as a “participant” in a rolling gunfight on the freeway. The existence of uniform-mounted camera video could have helped answer those questions.

The state Department of Justice continues to investigate the shooting.

The Sheriff’s Department is still developing a policy on the use of the cameras, Rodriguez said. The department has not yet come to an agreement with the deputies union on its terms, said Lolita Harper, executive director of the Sheriff’s Employees’ Benefit Association. But Harper said she didn’t expect the negotiations to be contentious.

“Body-worn camera footage is not the end-all, be-all, but it does provide insight into what happens when we are on patrol and why it happens,” said Sgt. Grant Ward, SEBA’s president. “The cameras will allow additional perspectives that will be a benefit to the deputies and to the public. I am confident the overwhelming majority of camera footage depicting our deputies’ day-to-day interactions will irrefutably show that appropriate action was taken.”

The Sheriff’s Department patrols unincorporated areas of the county and has contracts to provide law enforcement services to the cities of Adelanto, Big Bear Lake, Chino Hills, Grand Terrace, Hesperia, Highland, Loma Linda, Needles, Rancho Cucamonga, Twentynine Palms, Victorville, Yucaipa and Yucca Valley as well as the Town of Apple Valley.

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