Body Worn Camera Unit

The History of Body-Worn Cameras in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

deputy wearing body worn camera standing in front of Patrol car

The purpose of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s (Department) body-worn camera program is to establish responsibilities and procedures for the use and deployment of the Department issued body-worn camera (BWC) equipment, including the Digital Evidence Management Systems (DEMS).  This page will provide public information on the history of the BWC program plan, the body-worn camera testing process and development, and an implementation plan.  The Department anticipates this plan may change as the program evolves through funding, procurement, implementation, and sustainment; nonetheless, the implementation of the program is one of Sheriff Villanueva’s top priorities.

At the beginning of 2010, the Department recognized the importance of the developing technology of body-worn cameras.  The Department began the beginning stages of implementing a BWC program as a means of building trust and accountability within the communities they serve.  A Test and Evaluation (T&E) was conducted within the Custody Division to test body-worn cameras.  The T&E provided results that BWC technology was still in its early development and stationary cameras would better serve the custody environment.  The study concluded that the Department’s infrastructure was not viable for the implementation of BWCs in Custody.

On September 28th, the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence (Commission) submitted a report to the Board of Supervisors (Board). The Commission was tasked with conducting “a review of the nature, depth, and cause of the problem of inappropriate deputy use of force in the jails and to restore public confidence in the constitutional operation of our jails.” The report contained over 77 findings and 63 recommendations for reform. The most unique recommendation was the request to create an Office of Inspector General (OIG).

On October 16th, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas submitted a motion on the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence. He moved to hire an implementation monitor to review the implementation of the 63 recommendations. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas requested the monitor be aided by a team of advisors and the implementation monitor report back to the Board on the status of the requested Recommendations of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence.

On November 2nd, former Sheriff Leroy Baca submitted a Personal Video Recording Devices (PVRD) T&E report to the Board. The report served as a comprehensive evaluation of PVRD technology available to law enforcement agencies in the United States, and its legal and policy implications of a large scale deployment of PVRDs in a custody environment.

In 2013, the Department initiated a new study to explore the evolving technology for deployment within patrol operations.  After the research, the Department released a “Request for Information,” (Bid #RFI-IS-142001-1) for a no-cost T&E to test BWC equipment, DEMS, cloud-based storage solutions, and policy development.  Furthermore, the Department selected four different manufacturers’ products to test.  The products were tested between September  2014 and March of 2015.  One patrol station from each of the four Patrol Divisions participated in the T&E.  During this time, the Department dedicated three full-time personnel to develop expertise, examine the workload impacts of BWC and digital evidence, the costs of infrastructure assessments, the development of an implementation plan, and policy.

To share the information gathered about the development of the BWC program, BWC personnel and the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs’ Association (LACPCA) organized monthly meetings for all Los Angeles County law enforcement agencies.

On July 12th, the Board requested former Sheriff McDonnell to report back, within 120 days, a plan to implement body-worn cameras in the shortest timeframe possible as well as how the digital evidence would be stored in a binary form.  The Board’s motion stated, “A plan [is needed] to implement body-worn cameras in the shortest timeframe possible and in a manner that makes the best use of partnerships with other agencies, including the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Office of Inspector General, the Public Defender, and the Alternate Public Defender.”

Within the 120 days, the Department organized a Countywide BWC Implementation Workgroup consisting of justice partners from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office (LADA), Public Defender (PD), Alternate Public Defender (APD), Probation, Office of Inspector General, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), CEO Chief Information Officer (CIO), Internal Services Department (ISD), Information Services Advisory Board (ISAB), County Counsel, Countywide Criminal Justice Coordination Committee (CCJCC), Superior Court and Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).  The workgroup was divided into three separate subcommittees consisting of Fiscal, Technical, and Policy.  The groups first met on July 28th, 2016, and met bi-weekly between August 11th and October 6th, 2016.

On November 8th, the Information Systems Advisory Body (ISAB) director submitted a letter to the Board in response to the development of a plan to implement a strategy for a Countywide Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS).

In June, the Department submitted the BWC Implementation Plan.  This plan requested approximately $55 million in annual funding and an additional 239 personnel.  This cost was unmatched by any other law enforcement agency of equal size.  The request for additional personnel was largely due to two specific policy directions.

The first policy direction was to require investigators to review all BWC videos for all cases they were assigned to investigate.  The second was to provide a system to release any BWC video to the public, upon request.  Both of these policy directions were inconsistent with other law enforcement agencies in California.  This cost delayed funding for a BWC program, which caused the Board to pass an additional motion directing Sheriff McDonnell to hire an outside consultant to evaluate the Department’s BWC Implementation Plan.

Sheriff’s response to Board of Supervisors regarding Chief Executive Officer’s recommendations for Body Worn Cameras, February 20, 2018. – PDF

Keywords: Sheriff McDonnal, Sachi Hamai, stall in BWC program, vacancies in personnel, budget,

On August 7th, the Board directed the CEO in consultation with the Sheriff, County Counsel, Office of Inspector General, and the Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission, to engage a consultant to review and assess the previous County reports on BWCs. And evaluate the Sheriff’s proposed policies, procedures, deployment plan, staffing and corresponding operational impact on the Department and the community.

On December 3rd, Sheriff Alex Villanueva was sworn into office as the 33rd Sheriff of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  On the third day in office, Sheriff Villanueva convened a meeting with the Board, CEO, and BWC team to promise his commitment to deploying cameras in the most economical and expeditiously manner possible.  This meeting initiated the support from the Board and CEO’s offices to expedite the implementation of the Department’s BWC Plan.

Sheriff speaking passionatly at a Town Hall

In January, the CEO hired an outside BWC consultant based off of a previous Board motion passed in August of 2018.  That motion directed the CEO to hire an outside consultant to review a previous BWC implementation plan submitted to the Board in June of 2017.  The Department began working with the consultant and CEO members to start the process of implementing the program.

In February, $2.1 million in funding was allocated to the Sheriff’s Department from the Provisional Financing Uses (PFU) to the Sheriff’s General Support Services budget unit, to fund computer and IT upgrades at five patrol stations.  This process was needed to meet current operational needs and prepare for additional patrol technology developments.  The decision was based on prior BWC program estimates based off of a recommendation from a report submitted from ISAB back in 2016.

On June 12th, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) submitted their independent analysis, six months after initially hired by the County, in January of 2019.  The County asked IACP to validate LASD’s proposed BWC policies and procedures; reflect on organizational capabilities, national best practices, lessons learned by other agencies, and community stakeholder input; and include metrics to quantify the impact of BWCs on operations, workload, budget, civil claims, and the community.  Their findings concluded that “LASD and the County have the ability to ensure that the LASD program under consideration is implemented and operated in a manner that balances a multitude of interests and leverages the taxpayer investment in public safety.”

On August 30th, the CEO submitted her analysis of Sheriff Villanueva’s proposed budget for the BWC program.

On September 24th, the Board moved to approve the implementation of the BWC program and submitted revised recommendations, as well as set aside $32.7 million in the PFU budget unit.

On October 31st, Internal Services Department (ISD) released the Request for Proposal (RFP) for BWC solicitation.  The solicitations were due to ISD on December 12, 2019.

On December 19th, the Board approved a motion to provide $5.63 million dollars from the PFU account for the use of BWC program infrastructure upgrades.

With this funding the following 10 stations will have the network and infrastructure upgraded: Compton Station, Carson Station, East Los Angeles Station, South Los Angeles Station, Lost Hills/Malibu Station, Altadena Station, Crescent Valley Station, Santa Clarita Station, Marina del Rey Station, and Avalon Station.

On January 21st, the Department encumbered $3.87 of the allocated budget, with approximately $1.8 million remaining for this fiscal year.

On May 28th, the Board responded to Sheriff Villanueva concerning the body-worn camera funding.  The Department was beginning to purchase and receive much of the infrastructure equipment for the BWC deployment, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the requested funds relating to training and consulting services will not be spent this fiscal year as all training was canceled until further notice.  All purchases on non-essential services, supplies, and equipment were frozen by the CEO.  The Board stated, “All funding for body-worn cameras will be adjusted in the June Mid-year Budget Adjustment.”

The Department is currently awaiting the CEO to finalize a lease space agreement for the BWC Unit.

On June 16th, the OIG wrote a third report on the implementation of BWC in Los Angeles County.  This letter was a summarized history of the plans previously implemented since 2019.  The letter included a brief history of funds requested to implement BWC program.  The letter concluded “implementing body-worn cameras is an immediate necessity.  Having cameras and a robust policy for their use, data classification, and data storage will promote transparency and public trust.”  The Inspector General also included that the implantation plan of BWCs will continue to be monitored.

On June 22nd, Sheriff Villanueva responded to the OIG’s third response on implementing body-worn cameras in Los Angeles County.  His letter addressed concerns brought up by the OIG and acknowledged what the Department has done or will do to resolve it.  In his final statement, Sheriff Villanueva said, “Both the community and the Department would appreciate if you [could] prioritize the BWC program and eliminate all obstacles remaining.”

On August 12th, Sheriff Villanueva announced the Department contracted with Axon for the next five years to outfit all field deputies with body-worn cameras. Over the next 18 months, the Department will deploy 5,248 cameras Department-wide.


Group photo of deputies fitted with body cameras

The Department, International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), Internal Services Department (ISD), and the Chief Executive Office (CEO) collaborated to develop an Implementation Plan (Plan) that entailed the significant undertaking to equip 5,248 deputies and security officers operating out of 58 patrol stations and sub-stations, 84 County facilities, and nine community colleges. The Plan provided a model timetable, subject to adjustments, that detailed tasks, milestones, and budgets required to systematically operationalize the body-worn camera program.

The current Implementation Plan is comprised of the following categories:

  1. BWC Central Operations($1.8 million one time, with $6.7 million ongoing cost) — Personnel for the Body Worn Camera Unit (BWCU) is staffed with 26 employees and are in the process of training.  Office space has been identified and a lease agreement is being negotiated.
  2. Facility Infrastructure and Network (cost $7.4 million, one-time, with $0.4 million ongoing cost) — The first five stations are completed (Century, Lakewood, West Hollywood, Lancaster and Industry). Currently, 10 stations and supporting units are in the process of facility infrastructure improvements for this fiscal year (FY 20/21).
  3. Equipment Procurement (cost $7.8 million, one-time cost: BWCs, smart phones, computers) — Vendor RFP has been negotiated and a five year contract with Axon was signed. Implementation of cameras to the first five stations will be distributed within 60 days, starting October 1, 2020.
  4. Patrol Operations($3.5 million, one-time cost, with $7.0 million ongoing cost) — The BWCU developed an eight hour curriculum regarding the use of BWC equipment.

The Sheriff’s body-worn camera implementation plan was phased over three fiscal years.  The Board set aside funding for the one-time expenses with a nominal allowance for contingencies.

Implementation commenced immediately with staffing the centralized Body Worn Camera Unit and facility preparation. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the actual deployment of devices to patrol operations is scheduled to take approximately 18 months; whereby, the budget and the device deployment will begin.

Actual ongoing costs are scheduled to incrementally increase with each fiscal year as body-worn camera operations expand department wide. Based upon the Sheriff’s proposal, ongoing funds were allocated for the first two fiscal years. An adjustment of the existing ongoing funding allocation may be needed in FY 2021-22, which will be the final year of implementation. Ongoing costs for the body-worn camera device and software subscription will be determined by the RFP and could have a significant impact on the overall budget. The CEO will monitor the body worn camera budget during the implementation period and make budget adjustment recommendations as needed.

BWC equipment will be deployed to five patrol stations: Century, Lakewood, Industry, West Hollywood, and Lancaster.  These stations were chosen by a combination of benefiting from reduced risk and geographic benefits to the Department.

The additional patrol stations and Department bureaus have been determined in order based on a risk assessment, facility infrastructure readiness, and Department needs.  The risk factors evaluated were the number of calls for service/observations, total arrests, total use of force incidents, number of shootings, total vehicle pursuits and number of complaints.