Sheriff’s Union Fights Use of Body Cameras

     RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) – The sheriff’s union in Riverside County, Calif. sued their sheriff, claiming he ordered officers in a substation to wear body cameras without consulting it.
     The Riverside County Sheriffs’ Association sued the county, its Board of Supervisors and Sheriff-Coroner Stanley Sniff on Tuesday in Superior Court.
     The sprawling, 7,208 square-mile county of 2.2 million people just north of San Diego is the fourth-largest by population in California, and the 11th largest in the United States.
     The sheriff on May 16 ordered all deputies in the Jurupa Valley Station to wear body cameras, according to the lawsuit. Jurupa Valley, pop. 97,500, is just north of the county seat Riverside, and south of Fontana.
     Officers were ordered to record interactions with civilians “where there is a potential for a citizen’s complaint, where the contacted person/parties has become belligerent, loud or hostile toward the officer, and/or situations where the officer may anticipate their credibility being challenged at a later date,” the complaint states, citing the policy.
     Deputies involved in “significant” situations, such as officer-involved shootings or in-custody deaths, must download the recording but are prohibited from viewing it.
     However, their supervisors and Sheriffs Department investigators will be able to view the content, according to the complaint.
     The association says this aspect of the policy is “of major concern” because it contravenes prior procedures that allow officers to use their videos to help them write reports or answer questions from investigators.
     And the union says the policy was put in place without giving the association “an opportunity to bargain,” which violates its members’ collective bargaining rights.
     A spokesman for Riverside County declined to comment.
     The Sheriffs Department said in a January news release that it disagrees with the union’s framing of the issue, and believes that testing the use of body cameras does not require collective bargaining negotiations.
     In May, the sheriff’s office said it has been testing body cameras for seven years, so it is not a new policy. It said in that statement that 139 members of the Jurupa Valley program volunteered to use the cameras, including several detectives, and that feedback was “overwhelmingly” positive.
     The sheriff’s office called body cameras an important tool that enhance officer safety and promotes community. It defended the policy of not letting deputies review footage of critical situations before filing reports, saying that would lend “credibility and objectivity of those investigations.”
     The association asks the court to toss out the new policy, “return to the status quo” and engage in good-faith bargaining with the association
     It is represented by Michael P. Stone with Stone Busailah of Pasadena, who did not immediately return a request for comment.

%d bloggers like this: