SAN DIEGO – On Tuesday, San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher announced the approval of the San Diego County Sheriff Department’s request to have all deputies in the county wear body cameras inside detention facilities.

“Every Deputy assigned to a County jail or detention facility will soon be wearing body-worn cameras, it will help to increase accountability and transparency during investigations of action that occur within our jails,” Fletcher said in a news release. “I want to thank Sheriff Anthony Ray for moving body-worn cameras from the pilot program in our jails, to being a standard practice.”

The approval comes months after the state auditor released a report that stated that the agency had “failed to adequately prevent and respond to” the number of inmate deaths in San Diego County facilities. Between 2006 and 2020, there were a reported 185 fatalities across all seven facilities in the county.

“The high rate of deaths in San Diego County’s jails (as) compared to other counties raises concerns about underlying systemic issues with the Sheriff’s Department’s policies and practices,” acting California State Auditor Michael Tilden wrote in an introductory open letter in the report addressed to Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislative leaders.

“Body-worn cameras represent a technological advance in policing and can help provide the high-quality public service expected of the Sheriff’s Department and promote the sense of procedural
justice that communities expect from their law enforcement agencies,” officials said in Tuesday’s agenda item.

Earlier this year, deputies inside the Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility in Santee began wearing body cameras as part of a pilot program.

“This is ultimately about the safety of the people in our custody and those who work in our facilities,” Acting Sheriff Kelly Martinez said in a statement in March. “Having body cameras in our jails will also strengthen our relationship with the community by increasing accountability and trust.”

Deputies will be required to turn on the bodycams when moving inmates from one area to another, entering a cell or holding area where incarcerated people are present, booking or intaking inmates, searches of cells, and when supervising inmates.

Fletcher said that before the approval from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, roughly 80 body cameras were deployed inside detention facilities.

In the request submitted to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, officials with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department asked to waive Board Policy A-87, which requires “competitive procurement of goods and services.” Officials also requested that the department be allowed to enter into a new five-year contract with Axon, the manufacturer of the body cameras used inside San Diego County detention facilities. The current contract is slated to end on July 31. Funds for the implementation of this policy have already been allotted in the Fiscal Year 2021-22 Operational Plan and cost an estimated $5,000,000.