SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office is the largest law enforcement agency in Northern California and among the largest sheriff’s departments in the country, yet county officials continue to have the agency’s 1,500 sworn deputies work without body cameras.
The Board of Supervisors did not approve funding for body cameras in 2018.
“We are one of the largest agencies in Northern California. And so, just by scale, it would be several million dollars for the initial purchase and then some ongoing costs, obviously,” explained Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.
But things may soon change.
“I wouldn’t be surprised that as we go through these budget deliberations this month and next month, then going into final budget in September, that we start to see body cameras as a component of part of these budget talks,” said Jones.
FOX40 reached out to the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Phil Serna, to ask if the county would pay for body cameras this time around. Serna said he has made that his top priority.
In a letter to the county’s chief executive officer, Serna wrote:
Speaking for myself as one member of the Board of Supervisors, I continue to be extremely supportive of not only the policy that all of our sworn personnel wear body cameras in Sacramento County, but that this priority be front and center in your 2020/21 Recommended Budget.
“We want them, we’ve wanted them for several years,” said Jones. “There’s no substitute for video. Even though it doesn’t tell a complete story oftentimes, it does tell an unalterable part of the story.”
According to public records, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office has paid more than $16 million in excessive force damages in the last decade.
Jones told FOX40 he believes body cameras would have made a difference when settling excessive force cases. He said there is an automatic air of suspicion within the public perception and a jury’s perception when there is no video.
“It absolutely would make a difference,” explained Jones. “I could say this is true from our in-car cameras. Most times the in-car cameras will exonerate an officer against a complaint or a claim being made.”
A couple of years ago, Sgt. Tess Deterding participated in a pilot program, wearing various body cameras to test them out.
“You know, 99% of officers who are out there doing the right thing for the right reasons,” said Deterding. “And with that, they understand the added protection that comes with having all of their daily duties being not only audio recorded but also having that camera footage of these instances.”
“Whether that’s against the department or the officers or whether that’s against someone making a false claim, either way, it helps get to the truth,” said Jones.
The sheriff’s office is due to get around $277 million in general funds.
Jones told FOX40 that if he does not get the funding from the county, he will look to community partners, along with any state or federal funding that may be available.