Simitian Proposes Body-worn Cameras for Santa Clara County Sheriff's Deputies

December 12, 2014


SAN JOSE – Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian today called for the County Sheriff’s Office to acquire and deploy body-worn cameras for its deputies. Simitian’s proposal for cameras echoes that of community members and other government agencies around the country in the wake of recent episodes of alleged police misconduct. “In fact,” notes Simitian, “Sheriff Laurie Smith earlier this year proposed the use of our County’s Measure A funds to deploy body-worn cameras in her department.  I think it’s time to revisit the issue.”

"We can watch with anguish what's happened in other communities around the country, shake our heads, and then move on,” said Simitian, “or we can accept the responsibility to do something. These certainly aren't problems that are going to solve themselves. The technology is available, and I think we ought to use it.”

Body-worn cameras are gaining wider acceptance with law enforcement agencies around the country; and while research on their effects is still being conducted, early results are promising. A 16-month-long study conducted in Rialto, California, showed a more than 50% reduction in use of force by police officers wearing cameras, and a nearly 90% drop in citizen complaints of police misconduct.

"We certainly wouldn't be the first to use this technology,” said Simitian, “and we have the benefit of experience in other jurisdictions around the County and around the country.” Police in Gilroy, Los Gatos, and Campbell already wear cameras, and Mountain View plans to equip its police force with cameras in 2015. The County Sheriff’s office has made only limited use of body-worn cameras and vehicle-mounted cameras; but reports that what experience it has had, has been generally positive.

Simitian acknowledges that body-worn cameras aren’t a cure-all, but sees three potential benefits. “I think cameras can protect the public against officer misconduct, protect the officers against unfounded allegations, and help restore trust and confidence in law enforcement and public institutions generally.”

In 2013, the Police Chiefs’ Association of Santa Clara County, working with Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, crafted a protocol meant to guide the use of body-worn cameras County-wide. Simitian calls this a “head start,” but adds, “It's more important to do this right than to do it fast. I have my own concerns, like privacy and data retention, and I'm anxious to hear from the Sheriff, the District Attorney, and the rank-and-file in the Sheriff's Office, as well as members of the public.”

Simitian expects his camera proposal to be referred to the County Administration after an initial hearing on December 16, 2014.



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