L.A. Sheriff’s Office Begins Police Body Camera Pilot Program to Test New Cameras

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office has implemented a new pilot program among some of its deputies to test the effectiveness of four different types of police body cameras, according to The Los Angeles Times. Although the new program comes in the midst of two controversial police shootings that have caused many police agencies to require police car or body cameras, the L.A. Sheriff’s Office said that the program initially started a year ago and is not in response to the shootings.

Police body cameras and in-car cameras have been shown to benefit both police officers and the public. Studies have shown that they increase officer safety, increase police professionalism and provide an unbiased source when there are differing stories about what happened during an arrest.

The program is being tested at four different L.A. sheriff’s stations, including Lancaster, Temple, Century and Carson. Each of the four different camera prototypes was provided to the sheriff’s office at no cost by the manufacturers. Three of the cameras being tested attach to the officer’s shirt, while one, the Taser Axon Flex, attaches to sunglasses or a helmet.

Throughout the duration of the project, deputies equipped with body cameras were instructed to activate them during arrests, routine traffic stops, pursuit of suspects, or in other situations as they deem necessary; however, they do not need to tell people that they are being recorded.

Supporters of police body cameras believe that the pilot program will cause both officers and suspects to behave in a more appropriate manner. They say that it gives those who encounter the police comfort in knowing that their side of the story is being documented. Police officers also feel at ease knowing that there is objective evidence out there when controversial issues come up.

“Around the country, more DAs are taking the stance that ‘if it’s not on video, it didn’t happen’. The public expects to see video of every event, and I believe that in the majority of cases, the video is going to benefit the officer and department. Too often we see videos shot by a bystander that did not start recording until well into an encounter, the officer’s video will potentially show everything from the beginning,” says Jubal Ragsdale of 10-8 Video LLC.

While cameras offer many benefits, there are still some kinks that need to be worked out. For example, having a camera attached to your chest doesn’t necessarily provide the best angle for video footage. Skeptics also argue that police can easily turn cameras on and off at their discretion, allowing for important details to go unrecorded.

How effective the L.A. sheriff cameras will be remains to be seen, and whether or not the program goes into full effect after the pilot program concludes will be up to whoever is elected as the new sheriff on November 4.

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