Police forces around the Bay Area have given officers wearable cameras, but San Francisco could become the first place in the state to try the technology in a jail.
(TNS) -- San Francisco sheriff’s deputies who guard one of the city’s jails will soon wear body cameras following allegations that inmates were forced to fight while deputies gambled on the battles.
The 30-camera pilot program in Jail No. 4 — the site of the alleged fights, which are under investigation by the FBI — is expected to begin in several months and comes as Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi seeks to emphasize transparency and accountability in his department.
“It’s my belief that fitting our deputies with body cameras, combined with personnel training and police reforms that are also in the works, are tools that will help to foster a more durable trust with the public, our inmates and their loved ones,” Mirkarimi said in a statement Tuesday.
Police forces around the Bay Area — including in Oakland and Union City and on the BART system — have given officers wearable cameras, but San Francisco could become the first place in the state to try the technology in a jail.
Some police watchdog groups see cameras as one answer to outrage over recent police shootings. Ferguson, Mo., is among several cities instituting a program after the August police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, which was not captured on video.
The San Francisco inmates came forward last month. They said deputies who made them fight told them to lie and say they fell off their bunks if they needed medical treatment.
One inmate, whose drug and gun possession case has since been dropped by the district attorney’s office, said he suffered severe bruises and possible fractured ribs.
“The devices will ensure that interactions between deputy sheriffs and inmates are recorded, better ensuring the safety of inmates and protecting deputies against unfounded allegations,” department officials said.
The department did not say how the cameras would be used and when deputies would be expected to turn them on, explaining that officials were “creating new policies governing their use.”
Police departments generally have officers turn on body cameras when making a stop, responding to an emergency or interacting with a subject in an investigation.
The Sheriff’s Department plans to pay for the cameras out of its own budget, after the city declined Mirkarimi’s requests for the funds.
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