Deputies begin 90-day test of body cameras

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SAN DIEGO – San Diego County Sheriff's deputies began a 90-day pilot program to test wearing cameras on their uniforms Friday.

Law officers with the sheriff's department's Rancho San Diego Station, Lakeside Substation, Vista Station, Rural Command, North Coastal Station and Hall of Justice contingent are taking part in the three-month trial period of the cameras, which record video and audio records of law enforcement officers' interactions with the public.

The pilot program involves equipment from three companies -- WatchGuard Video, TASER International and Vievu -- each with a 30-day field-testing phase, according to sheriff's public affairs. WatchGuard Video cameras will be the first tested.

The sheriff's department began looking into the possibility of using the devices 18 months ago.

"This is one of the most significant programs we have initiated since I was elected sheriff, and I want to do it the right way -- for our personnel, and for our communities,'' Sheriff Bill Gore said.

The trial will involve 75 cameras, with 22 going to Vista, 16 to Rancho San Diego, 15 to North Coastal deputies, 12 to personnel assigned to the Hall of Justice, eight to Lakeside and two to deputies in the Rural Command, according to the sheriff's department.

"I’m still trying to get used to it," Deputy Oscar Butler, San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Deputy Butler was one of 3 deputies testing out the cameras on Friday at the North Coastal Station.  He took Fox 5 on a ride-along.  He said he believes the cameras will help to provide a bigger picture.

"It’s going to show the public what we see at that time this is what we observed, this is why we did at that particular time," said Butler.

The cameras also include audio.

 

"I think that will eliminate a lot of accusations, because they’re going to see the video camera on me and also keep in mind we can also see what they're saying," said Butler.

He said the hardest part about the cameras is learning how to use them.

"That’s what’s kind of scary, because you have to turn it on and turn it off." said Butler.

The three companies participating in the trial were selected by a panel made up of representatives from the sheriff's Data Services Division, Training Unit, Contracts Division, and patrol and detentions units. The committee also discussed the issue with officials from other law enforcement agencies in San Diego County and some in Los Angeles County and Mesa, Arizona, that had experience with uniform-worn cameras.

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