Before it could even begin, the testing phase of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department body camera program has been put on hold. The department is being sued by the county’s most powerful public safety union.
“The Riverside Sheriff’s Association disagrees with the purchase of the cameras,” said Sgt. Mike Manning of the Sheriff’s Department.
The county’s Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of 165 cameras last November, which along with the costs of video storage, totalled more than $380,000.
The Jarupa Valley Sheriff’s Station would be the first to wear them and gauge whether they increased professionalism and reduced lawsuits over the use of force.
“The sheriff does support body worn cameras,” said Sgt. Manning. “To protect the deputies and provide transparency for the department and the public in the community.”
The RSA filed the lawsuit January 6, alleging the county never negotiated the purchased body cameras with union officials.
But because the test program would be volunteer-only, the Sheriff’s Department said it didn’t believe negotiation was necessary.
A representative for the union wasn’t available for comment.
“It’s not a good thing, the more protection our police have the better,” said Harry Schmidt of Rancho Mirage.
“I don’t understand why people would be opposed to them having cameras quite honestly,” said Diana Kemp of Rancho Mirage.
“I think it saves people from going to court and getting a ton of opinions of bystanders whose every opinion is different from what they saw,” said Susan Mahler of Vancouver.
A court hearing is scheduled for March 9.