Supes approve body-worn camera funding, end ICE transfers

Los Angeles County Seal.

Following a number of heated debates with Sheriff Alex Villanueva on funding in recent months, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the first year of funding for body-worn cameras in their regular Tuesday meeting.

This comes after Villanueva announced that come October, Sheriff’s Department deputies would start receiving body-worn cameras through an agreement with Axon Enterprise Inc.

“This is a big step in the direction of ensuring the accountability of our communities, and frankly it’s what they deserve,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, said during the meeting. “It has certainly been long-awaited, and we cannot afford to delay any longer.” 

Nevertheless, both Barger and Supervisor Janice Hahn, of the 4th District, who authored the motion together, said there’s a lot more to do in regards to police reform. 

“Let’s move forward today with implementing body-worn cameras in our own county Sheriff’s Department, but let’s not stop there,” Hahn said. “This needs to be accompanied by real accountability, real reform and real reflection.” 

The motion authorizes $25.5 million, $12.3 million in ongoing and $13.2 million in one-time funding, to be given to the Sheriff’s Department, covering the cost of the body-worn cameras for the fiscal year 2020-21, which includes costs for the technology and for running the system backend. 

The camera program is estimated to equip 5,200 deputies and security officers with devices over the next two years, slated to be released first to a group of five stations: Century, Industry, Lakewood, Lancaster and West Hollywood. The SCV Sheriff’s Station is not in the first group. The next phase is set to include 10 additional stations beginning Jan. 1.

Other motions 

The Board of Supervisors also approved a motion that ends transfers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in L.A. County, without a judicial warrant.

Earlier this month, Villanueva made similar moves, making permanent the temporary hold on the transfer of individuals being held on a civil immigration detainer he had put in place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the meeting, he called the motion a “very good step forward,” though he said there is still work to be done. 

The motion is set to prohibit the use of any county resources to facilitate transfers, unless in accordance with a judicial warrant, judicial probable cause determination or otherwise required by federal or state law.

In addition, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion set to examine the county’s use of telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic to evaluate opportunities to expand these programs into the future.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth operations in the Los Angeles County health care system have served a critical role to ensure community members receive the care they need,” Barger said in a prepared statement. “While we have had to make adjustments during the Safer at Home directive, these advancements could allow us to better reach our communities in a way that is innovative, convenient, and — most importantly — accessible to those in need.”

That being said, the motion is set to allow the chief executive office to evaluate whether hard-to-reach communities have benefited from increased access to telehealth services, identifying which programs would be effective in a standard health care situation once the pandemic has subsided, while also identifying available funding sources.

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