San Francisco supervisors on Thursday voted in favor of a body-worn camera pilot program that they hope will improve accountability and transparency within the sheriff's department and city jails.
The board's Budget and Finance Subcommittee signed off on spending just over $41,000. With it, the San Francisco Sheriff's Department plans to purchase 40 body-worn cameras use by 30 deputies. Sheriff's officials hope to be able to expand the program to include all 850 deputies in the future.
Full board approval is not needed since supervisors already put the money into reserves last year.
The initial focus would be on maximum-security Jail No. 4, which is on the seventh floor of the Hall of Justice where, two years ago, deputies were accused of forcing inmates to fight each other.
Problems with visibility and surveillance camera coverage also plague the San Francisco jail.
According to a draft policy, deputies will be asked to would turn on their cameras to record emergency calls within the jail, inmate fights, any criminal activity, and instances when the inmates are being non-compliant.
The pilot program, which is expected to start in the summer, will last between six months and a year. That time will help department leaders draft a final policy for camera use. One of the issues under consideration is whether to allow the deputies to view the footage before or after they file reports.
Paul Miyamoto, the deputy chief of custody at the San Francisco Sheriff's Department, plans to tell reluctant deputies that this is "something we have to accept now."
San Francisco will join the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, which approved body cameras for its jail guards in January. This, after three inmates were accused of and are currently on trial for beating a mentally ill inmate, Michael Tyree, to death.