Body Cameras On Order For Roughly 1,350 Of San Bernardino County’s 2,007 Sheriff’s Deputies

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has signed off on spending $312,267 this year to initiate a program to equip roughly two-thirds of the sheriff’s department’s 2,007 deputies with bodyworn cameras.
That expenditure represents a commitment to outfit all of the department’s deputies with the video devices and cover the cost of storing and retrieving the data captured by them for approximately three-and-a-half months.
According to information available to the Sentinel, the county is to pay $399 to Scottsdale, Arizona based Axon Enterprises, Incorporated for each camera along with a $79 per month fee for unlimited data storage and retrieval from each device.
The cameras will be worn by all of the department’s deputies and detectives. It has not been determined yet whether the department’s sergeants and lieutenants will also routinely sport the devices. The concept, the Sentinel was informed, is to have all department personnel who interact with citizens in the field on a routine or daily basis to be required to wear them. The department’s captains, while occasionally coming in contact with residents and commonplace citizens are not in the field on a constant basis and spend far more of their time in indoor settings at department facilities. Sergeants and lieutenants divide their time, in most circumstances, between office work and field work, and generally do not involve themselves in activity in which controversy over citizen contact has played out, although there are exceptions.
A substantial number of other departments in San Bernardino County and Southern California have adopted body cameras into the daily patrol lives of their street and field officers. The sheriff’s department is profiting by the experience of other agencies, county officials maintain.
Additionally, in 2018, the department initiated a pilot program/experiment in which a limited number of deputies were outfitted with body cameras. The deputies and their superiors reported no problems with the program on their end, although there were what were termed “technological issues” that made the operation of the cameras unreliable in certain circumstances or areas of the 20,105 square-mile county.
A timeline for getting the equipment has not been announced, though officials said there are no restrictions on the initiation of the program on the department’s side, and delivery of the product from Axon is the major factor in when the program will be in full swing. It is thought that substantial numbers of deputies working the streets will have them by August or September, and that after those working in the field have been completely outfitted by late October or early November, deputies working in the county’s detention facilities in Rancho Cucamonga, Glen Helen, San Bernardino and Adelanto will be equipped next, to be followed by the department’s detectives.
In the latter case, the cameras are considered to be less of a monitor of officer-citizen interaction and more of an investigative tool, one which will capture the answers and body language of subjects and suspects interviewed during the course of investigations.
It is not crucial or even desirable that some department members wear the cameras, according to the department.
Under the arrangement approved by the county board of supervisors on February 28, the county is to fork over to Axon $6,561,335 for a five-year purchase and service arrangement. At $399 each, 2,007 cameras will cost $800,793. Thereafter, the county will pay $79 per month for the unlimited data storage and retrieval from each camera, a total of $158,553 monthly or $1,902,636 annually.
It appears that only a handful of the department’s personnel will be outfitted with the cameras by the end of the current fiscal year. Thus, for most of the current 2022-23 fiscal year, the cameras will not have been in use by the department’s members in any real sense. Use of the cameras will begin in earnest during the first half of the 2023-24 fiscal year.
Thus, it would appear, based upon the $1,312,267 per year contract for a total amount not to exceed $6,561,335 for the period of March 1, 2023 through February 29, 2028 and the Sentinel’s unconfirmed calculations, that the approximate four-and-one-half year program costing $6,561,335 will entail 1,350 of the department’s personnel being outfitted with cameras.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is the sixth largest law enforcement agency in the state, with its ranks outnumbered only by those of the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the San Francisco Police Department and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. The per item price it obtained on the cameras and the data storage and retrieval rates were no better than those paid by departments one-fifth its size.
The contract approved by the supervisors contains an option to extend the contract for one additional two-year period, or two additional one-year periods.
Among some knowledgeable about the program, there was concern akin to befuddlement at the price the county was willing to pay for the devices and what was perceived as a lack of will on the part of the sheriff’s department, the county purchasing division, the county executive office and the board of supervisors to ensure that the county achieved the most economical deal based upon economies of scale in dealing with Axon.
Oftentimes, the Sentinel was told, there are hidden springbacks or kickbacks layered into or buried within large government contracts, but that those generally run to no more than $100,000, primarily because those benefiting from them do not want to get caught. In this case, the Sentinel was told, the arrangement represents a loss to the county of well over a million dollars, as the county should have been able to work out an arrangement by which Axon sold enough cameras to the department to outfit all 2,007 of the department’s sworn officers, including Dicus, the undersheriff, all three assistant sheriffs, all seven deputy chiefs, its captains, lieutenants, sergeants, detectives, corporals and deputies and provide the data storage and retrieval on all of those devices for the stated five years for the quoted price of $6,561,335. This would suggest, the one-time purchasing official said, that the springbacks extended to more than one individual.
Those involved with the contract were Deputy County Counsel Richard D. Luczak, Purchasing Department Lead Buyer Michael Candelaria, Risk Management Director Victor Tordesillas, San Bernardino County Deputy Chief Controller Vanessa Doyle, Administrative Analyst Erika Rodarte, Deputy Executive Chief County Finance and Administration Officer Robert Saldana and Sheriff’s Bureau of Administration Chief Deputy Director Kelly Welty.

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