In a first-of-its-kind decision for county jails across the state ― and pursuant to his ongoing work implementing transparency and accountability-enhancing reform in the sheriff’s department ― Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has announced that San Francisco deputy sheriffs working in County Jail 4 will begin wearing body cameras on all shifts.
“There is no other jail system in California with body cameras,” said Sheriff Mirkarimi. “All the way around, this is a proper investment. … I believe this will be the wave of the future.”
The 30-camera pilot program is expected to begin in several months. The devices will ensure that interactions between deputy sheriffs and inmates are recorded, better ensuring the safety of inmates and protecting deputies against unfounded allegations.
“It’s my belief that fitting our deputies with body cameras, combined with personnel, training and policy reforms that are also in the works, are tools that will help to foster a more durable trust with the public, our inmates and their loved ones,” said the Sheriff.
After requesting, and not receiving, funds from the city budget to purchase body cameras for the past two years, Sheriff Mirkarimi moved to use funds from the department’s materials and supplies budget to acquire the devices.
“The funds we’re scraping together will purchase the initial 30 cameras,” he said. “We’ll continue to request funds from the city budget for more cameras.”
Since body cameras are untested policy-wise in California jails, the sheriff’s department is creating new policies governing their use from scratch, including rules governing application and use, privacy rights, ramifications for failure to adhere, data storage, personnel training, and public records requests.
Earlier this month, Sheriff Mirkarimi announced that the FBI has agreed, at his invitation, to investigate allegations of staged inmate fighting by four deputies at County Jail 4. The Sheriff will soon be announcing measures in addition to the implementation of body cameras to further increase transparency and accountability at the department.
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