Come June, some 200 body-worn cameras will be used daily by correctional officers and deputies employed by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office in an effort to enhance public safety and streamline evidence collection and sharing.
In unanimously approving a five-year contract with Axon, Inc. to provide 537 body-worn and 80 in-car cameras as well as a digital evidence management system, county supervisors gave Sheriff Carlos Bolanos the green light Tuesday to refine protocol the Sheriff’s Office has been developing for the technology in a two-year trial run.
With a growing body of research showing body-worn cameras can improve the civility of law enforcement and public encounters and reduce both use of force and assaults on police officers, the technology promises to promote transparency and assist Sheriff’s Office personnel in documenting statements, observations, behaviors and other evidence, noted Bolanos.
“It’s become almost a standard in law enforcement,” he said, according to a video of the meeting. “I think this is the time for the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office and the county to move to this technology.”
Charged with providing patrol service for unincorporated parts of the county and responsible for some 1,100 inmates in county jail facilities, the Sheriff’s Office has been piloting body-worn camera technology for more than two years leading up to its proposal to purchase them and a cloud-based evidence management system, said Bolanos.
Also providing contract patrol services to Half Moon Bay, Millbrae and San Carlos, the Sheriff’s Office has already developed draft policies outlining when the technology should be used, how footage should be retained and to maintain the dignity of the individuals deputies and correctional officers encounter while wearing the cameras, he said.
Bolanos said the Axon, Inc. technology already serves 107 law enforcement agencies and 20 district attorney’s offices in the state, including the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office and five agencies in the county. By integrating the department’s car fleet camera system with its body-worn cameras, the system is expected to produce 350,000 hours of video footage annually, he said.
Including the camera technology, installation and maintenance as well as hardware and software replacements, Bolanos said the five-year contract with Axon, Inc. is estimated to cost $3.9 million and an additional $525,000 a year to fund the salary and benefits for four new staff members. He said one new staff member will support the camera technology and three technicians will manage the digital evidence collected from the cameras, bringing the number of authorized positions in the Sheriff’s Office to 816.
By visiting evidence.com, staff can upload video footage, tag evidence and more easily share it on a cloud-based system with a few clicks, which will simplify the evidence collection and sharing processes personnel currently use, explained Bolanos.
With pricing for the system expected to increase in 2019, finalizing the contract with Axon, Inc. before the end of the year would ensure the county got the best possible pricing for the new technology, said Bolanos.
Board President Dave Pine and Supervisor Don Horsley asked Bolanos if the camera technology would be implemented across all jurisdictions for which the Sheriff’s Office provides services simultaneously and if the cities the department contracts will help fund the shift to the new technology. Bolanos said he plans to include the cost in future negotiations with the cities it contracts with and believed they would be supportive of the technology as they have in the past. He added the Sheriff’s Office will implement the technology across all units in the department to ensure the safety of all sheriff’s deputies and correctional officers who might use them.
“At the end of the day, it’s our personnel,” he said. “I would pay for it before I would allow somebody to not have the technology.”
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