‘Lights, camera, action’: Sheriff’s dept. orders new body cameras

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The public is clamoring for a higher standard of police accountability and transparency in the wake of George Floyd’s death, and many law enforcement agencies are looking to achieve that with body cameras. The Kern County Sheriff’s Office ordered over 150 new body-worn cameras, more than doubling the amount in service and replacing any they’re using now. Right now, only deputies in Bakersfield and Wasco wear cameras. Meanwhile the department says it plans to equip each deputy with this piece of equipment by September.

“The latest contract for five years is about $5 million,” said Lt. David Kessler from the Kern County Sheriff’s Dept. “The majority of that cost is from data storage. We’re storing it for 13 months, and in some of them, forever. “

The sheriff’s department says all of the footage will be uploaded to a private online server, so deputies can access the video from anywhere. These cameras come with some new features.

“When the officer pulls his duty weapon from his holster, it will automatically turn on his camera if it’s not already on,” said Lt. Kessler. “It will also activate any camera in the surrounding area, so we get a full view of what’s going on the incident.”

17 News tested the gear, firing a taser at a target while recording on the body-worn camera. This comes after a settlement with the state’s Department of Justice, requiring every deputy to wear a camera.

“Studies have shown body cameras can help de-escalate situations, reduce use of force, and help increase public trust,” said Sydney Siegmeth, Vice President of Communications for Axon.

The sheriff’s department says the cameras will not automatically turn on when a deputy draws a shotgun or rifle. Lt. Kessler says this may be a future software update.

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