L.A. County Sheriff's Department Unveils New Body Camera Policy

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department vehicle (David McNew/Getty Images)

When L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted last year to buy body cameras for the sheriff's department, the vote came with a caveat: First, they needed to know when and how they'd be used.

On Thursday, sheriff's officials presented those proposed body cam guidelines to the department's civilian oversight commission.

Under the draft policy, deputies would have to turn on body cameras in any interaction with the public, from traffic stops to the use of force.

LASD Commander Chris Marks said that if an officer turned off or obscured their camera, they would be required to provide a reason, "so there's no question why suddenly the video goes dark, and then something, you know, terrible happens."

A new California law requires the release of body camera footage of an officer-involved shooting or other major use of force, unless it would substantially interfere with an investigation.

Marks said the sheriff's department would allow deputies involved in a shooting to review body cam video before writing a statement about what happened. That part of the proposed policy concerned some commission members.

"It smacks of something that is less than transparent for the community," said commissioner Lael Rubin.

The release of footage from body cameras worn by police has cut both ways, at times validating the officer's accounts and actions and at other times telling a very different story.

It's unclear when the Board of Supervisors will consider the body cam rules. At the time of the September vote, officials said $35 million had been set aside in the county budget to acquire the equipment.

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