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Body cameras now part of deputy uniforms
sheriff body cameras
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Lopez dons one of the department’s new body cameras. More than 200 members of the department are now utilizing the body cameras during calls with public interaction (SABRA STAFFORD/The Journal).

Deputies with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department have a new piece of equipment that they don on their uniforms: body cameras.

The department issued the body worn cameras on April 1 to 180 sworn staff, 14 custodial deputies and 30 sergeants. The sheriff department’s protocol requires the deputies activate the cameras at all calls that will have public interaction, said department spokesman Sgt. Josh Clayton.

Once activated, the cameras made by Axon, will start recording from a point that is 30 seconds earlier than when activated. The audio kicks in at the point of activation. The camera captures a wide-angle view that can be seen on the deputies’ smart phones. At the end of the shift, the footage from the body camera is stored in a cloud-based server.

Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse made getting and using the cameras a priority once he took office.

“The cameras help with transparency and reassurance,” Clayton said. “The sheriff realized this is the wave of the future.”

The sheriff’s department is not the first law enforcement agency in Stanislaus County to use body cameras. The Modesto, Ceres and Oakdale police departments all utilize them. The Turlock Police Department is looking at funding options to see if it will be plausible anytime soon. The Department of Justice conducted a Body-Worn Camera Supplement to the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics survey in 2016 and found that 47 percent of the 15,328 general-purpose state and local law enforcement agencies had acquired body cameras. In comparison, 69 percent had dashboard cameras and 38 percent had personal audio recorders.

The survey also found the top reasons among law enforcement agencies for acquiring the body cameras were: Improve officer safety, improve evidence quality, reduce civilian complaints, and reduce agency liability.

The use of body cameras comes with a significant price tag. There are the initial costs, which can run in the thousands of dollars and there is a monthly subscription cost, which covers storage, maintenance and other necessities. The subscription cost is $79 a month per user.