The Riverside Sheriff’s Association (RSA) has announced it is going to court seeking to stop the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department from issuing deputies body cameras to use on duty. RSA alleges that wearing cameras has not been properly negotiated between the union and the County of Riverside. The Sheriff’s Department disagrees with the position of RSA, as published, at this stage in the voluntary testing for department-wide use of body cameras, in addition to the numerous body cameras which have in fact long been in use.
The proposed expansion of the use of body cameras, to be conducted at the Jurupa Valley Station, has not yet begun as all issues have not been resolved. However, the Department does not believe that “testing” expanded use of body cameras requires negotiation described in the RSA court filing. The announced litigation prevents more specific comment on RSA’s claims.
Deputies have used body cameras in many of the Sheriff Department’s contract city police operations for years. Those stations using these cameras already have standard operating procedures in place for those who voluntarily choose to use them. So use of body cameras in fact is not new. Since camera use is evolving regionally and nationwide, and has become more reliable and affordable, the Sheriff’s Department is looking at an expanded testing phase as the Department explores the viability for use Department-wide. At the appropriate time, the Department will then establish a formal official policy, and RSA will have an opportunity to provide input.
In any case, the Sheriff’s Department has not dictated the use of body cameras. Department body cameras have remained entirely voluntary in use. In addition, a number of employees have used personally-owned cameras on their own initiative. It is worthy to note that a multitude of videos camera systems are in near constant use today for security surveillance, traffic monitoring, at ATMs, and elsewhere. Chances are that each of us are already on camera in some way or fashion as we go about our daily business.
Cameras are tools that clearly benefit officers, the public and the county by all current accounts. Body cameras are an effective, reliable and affordable method of gathering evidence to support criminal prosecutions. Additionally, if people know officers are wearing body cameras, they expect their actions will be captured on video. As a result they will be less likely to falsely accuse or attack officers. That keeps everyone safer. Cameras may reduce the number of false complaints about officers’ behavior because we can document encounters between officers and the public.
The Sheriff has a long-standing posture of expecting transparency and accountability by the Department and all of its employees. And in today’s climate, residents expect law enforcement officers to be professional and responsible in the way they conduct themselves. We believe our employees are among the best trained and most dedicated anywhere, and we are committed to providing them the best tools possible to perform the difficult work they face.