PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. — Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb is hosting a “Cops” style Internet show that takes viewers on ride-a-longs with law enforcement. Viewers can watch the show if they pay a $5 monthly subscription.
There’s an irony to Sheriff Lamb’s enthusiasm for video recording officers on the job. Lamb’s own agency is one of the largest, if not the largest, in Arizona that does not have body-worn cameras on deputies.
5 cameras are coming to PCSO
In June, the county finally approved putting five cameras on K-9 deputies. The sheriff’s office is in the process of choosing a vendor for those cameras. There are a total of 232 sworn employees at PCSO.
The sheriff’s office has made hiring, retention and recruitment its top priority in recent years, said Matt Thomas, Chief Deputy of PCSO. Implementing body cameras on deputies was a mid-level priority.
“It’s not just the cameras. It’s the storage, it’s the redaction and everything that goes along with it,” Thomas said. “We are using the K-9 unit as a testing ground. We decided to make that our baby step into the pool, so to speak.”
Keeping “the shine on the badge”
Lamb’s internet show is called American Sheriff Network. It’s similar to "Cops" and "Live PD" and features sheriff’s offices around the country but will not include Pinal County.
Pinal County participated dozens of times with Live PD and Lamb was a familiar face on the show. When those shows were canceled last summer, Lamb said he was shocked and disappointed.
“I think now more than ever we need shows like Live PD and continue to show the good work men and women behind the badge do every day,” Lamb told 12 News last summer.
In a video posted online, Lamb says “law enforcement is not canceled” and he wanted to “keep the shine on the badge” of law enforcement.
“That’s why we’ve launched the American Sheriff Network,” Lamb said.
Ethics of ride-along shows questioned in the past
The ethics of such shows have come into question in the past. For example, Live PD acknowledged it destroyed footage of a controversial in-custody death.
Neither Sheriff Lamb nor the show’s producers have responded to interview requests by 12 News to discuss the American Sheriff Network.
Lamb says in public statements he will keep his job as sheriff separate from the internet show.
Why doesn’t PCSO have body-cameras?
Civil rights attorney Joel Robbins said Lamb’s office is behind the times because it is just beginning to implement body cameras.
“It’s the importance of having an accurate record,” Robbins said. “The vast majority of police officers are good. But you got to be able to catch the bad ones. And it also helps to protect the good ones in case of false accusations.”
Body cameras are just one tool of transparency and the PCSO has a history of trust with the community, Chief Thomas said.
“We’ve proven, especially with Sheriff Lamb, we’re very transparent and very engaged in our community. Even with what took place last year with law enforcement and the sentiment around the country, our office has been highly engaged with the community,” Thomas said.
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