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Sacramento NAACP demands clear policies as sheriff rolls out body cameras

The body cameras are being rolled out this week after the Sacramento NAACP demanded body cameras on ABC10's Late News Tonight in June 2020.
Credit: Randy Garcia

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — Beginning Monday, Feb. 15, all specialty units for the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office — which include the gang unit, the problem-oriented police team, and the homeless outreach team — received body cameras to use immediately.

The body cameras are being rolled out this week after the Sacramento NAACP demanded body cameras on ABC10's Late News Tonight in June 2020.

"We are working with the NAACP right now," Sheriff Scott Jones told Chris Thomas in June after a string of controversial cases involving deputies were caught on camera

Three teams were chosen for the cameras because of a combination of staff numbers and these teams are some of the most hands-on and involved, a good test run for the body cameras, said Captain Jim Barnes in a press conference Monday.

"It was important we had teams that were constantly getting out and interacting with the community," said Barnes.

According to a press release from the sheriff's office, this "pilot program approach allows the Sheriff’s Office to study and evaluate the effectiveness, as well as the technology, data storage and best practices." 

A full rollout of body cameras to the entire department is expected by June 2021, which will bring the now 31 initial cameras to a total of nearly 450 on all deputies on patrol. 

Last year, Jones told ABC10 the department "desperately wants body cameras." Almost all patrol car for the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office does have dash cameras.

The body camera rollout begins just a week after 24-year-old Kershawn Geyger was shot and killed by two Sacramento County Sheriff's deputies. But Barnes said their office has been working on getting body cameras since 2017, a lengthy process in establishing workflow and security.

"I know a lot of people think you just order something like this and it comes out of the box you put on and wear it, but that’s far from it. And being one of the largest police agencies in Northern California, it has taken some time to get here," said Barnes.

Earlier this year, a representative for the sheriff's office said the department was approved to purchase body cameras in September 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic slowed the progress of training its officers. 

"Slow progress indeed is better than no progress," said activist Stevante Clark. "I want to say that, I also want to say [that] we want to see all the policy regarding these body cameras."

Clear policy is especially important to Clark as after his brother, Stephon, was shot and killed by Sacramento Police in 2018, officer muted their body cameras. Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn later changed their policy, prohibiting officers from muting body cameras. It's something Clark hopes to see from the Sacramento Sheriff's Office.

"It needs to be in plain writing that you cannot mute it, that you cannot turn it off, that you cannot edit it," said Clark.

ABC10 reached out to the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office asking specifically if they had a policy on their new body cameras. We have yet to hear back, however, they provided the following statement in their earlier press release;

"The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office is committed to an ongoing partnership with our community to provide the highest level of service based on trust and transparency," the press release said. "In addition to our in-car camera systems which have been utilized for over a decade, the implementation of the body-worn cameras will allow deputies to document incidents and interactions and obtain evidence during investigations. In terms of evidence collection, body-worn cameras and in-car cameras provide an invaluable record of statements, physical evidence, and timeline of events during crimes in progress and other critical incidents."

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