The supervisors unanimously voted to informally adopt the funding in a preliminary budget that will be finalized on Sept. 15.
“Now was the time for all the right reasons, for evidentiary value, for oversight, for transparency to move towards implementation of body-worn cameras,” said Sheriff Don Barnes at the meeting.
Barnes said the department already had some of the necessary infrastructure in place from the in-car camera system used for decades.
The total cost of the program is projected to be between $5 million and $7 million annually, according to Barnes. However, 80 percent of that cost would be paid for by the municipal agencies and other partners that contract with the department.
Barnes requested $1.9 million in funding to start the program and create 13 new positions in the Sheriff’s Department. The body camera program is slated to officially begin in January 2022.
Supervisor Doug Chaffee, former mayor of the City of Fullerton, oversaw the first police body camera program in Orange County in 2014.
“What we found is that [the body camera program] de-escalated situations, both the officer and those involved in the altercation,” he said at the meeting.
“It tended to be more polite and get things done in a more appropriate way. It also cuts down on litigation.”
The supervisors addressed the topic of body cameras during a discussion about the county’s new $7.5 billion fiscal year budget, which is $706 million more than the 2019–2020 budget.
County CEO Frank Kim called the budget “austere.” He said there would be no mandatory layoffs or furloughs for county employees, despite a $290 million budget shortfall caused by a decrease in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The challenge in this budget is to develop one that provides the basic services that our residents require while managing the significant economic impacts that have rippled their way throughout our funding streams that has affected our ability to provide the level of services that we would have otherwise presented,” Kim said.
In a typical year, the Orange County budget is approved in June. However, the board decided then to adopt a temporary budget instead, and wait for potential federal and state funding to help fill any gaps.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors also voted on Sept. 1 to dedicate $25.5 million to fund body-worn cameras for Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies. The county will launch the program over the next year.