Supes unanimously pass body-worn camera proposal

Sheriff’s deputies and correctional officers in Santa Clara County will soon be outfitted with body-worn cameras, a decision that the Board of Supervisors made unanimously on Tuesday.

An estimated 1,142 officers will eventually wear the cameras, according to Supervisor Joe Simitian’s office.

Simitian first proposed the technology in December 2014, saying that he was motivated by the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police Officer Darren Wilson, in August of that year, inspiring widespread protests and sparking a national conversation about racial profiling by law enforcement.

Simitian said in a statement:

“We can watch with anguish what’s happened in other communities around the country, shake our heads and then move on. Or, we can accept the responsibility to do something.”

In September 2015, Simitian proposed an implicit bias training for all law enforcement officers in the county, according to his office.

The training program began that December, and so far almost 200 deputies have taken the course.

Simitian said:

“With this additional training, our officers are better equipped to recognize instances in which implicit bias may play a role, and are better able to overcome such bias and perform their duties in a fair and neutral way.”

A 16-month study conducted in Rialto showed a more than 50 percent reduction in use of force by police wearing cameras, and an almost 90 percent drop in civilian complaints of police misconduct, according to Simitian’s office.

The decision comes almost a year and a half after three guards at the Santa Clara County Jail allegedly beat a mentally ill inmate to death in August 2015.

The three guards are now facing murder and assault charges.

Simitian said:

“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.”

Simitian also plans to propose a system of civilian oversight of law enforcement. That proposal will come to the board in June, according to his office.