Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies on patrol throughout the county are now equipped with body worn cameras, allowing them to capture interactions with the public. But these aren’t your typical body worn cameras, they’re smart phones and can do so much more than just record video.
“Our new body worn camera is an Android device with a specially designed application that can record video and audio, take photos, and facilitate/record phone calls,” OHV Deputy Raleigh Willoughby said. Deputy Willoughby was part of the team tasked to test and help select the cameras. He said a lot of factors were considered during the selection period, including ease of use. “It’s pretty simple. To activate the camera, you just press the side or top button on the phone, and it gives you an audio to confirm that it is recording. Then you do the same thing to turn it off.”
While traditional body worn cameras, like the ones currently in use inside the county’s correctional facility, require law enforcement officers to manually upload footage and charge at a central docking station, the cellphone-based technology provides more flexibility to accommodate the county’s rural makeup and sheriff’s substations.
“Because we serve a rural county and not all deputies have the same headquarters, it’s essential that our deputies are able to use these cameras and have all the video uploaded instantaneously through a cell signal,” Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said.
For deputies in parts of the county without cell signal, the videos are saved on the device and uploaded automatically when service is restored. Once uploaded, the deputy is able to review the video prior to writing their report, and then the video is sent to the District Attorney’s Office to assist with potential prosecution. All video recorded is stored in the cloud for at least 180 days.
“These cameras will be utilized by every deputy sheriff on every contact, whether it’s an investigation, a traffic stop, a domestic violence incident- they’re going to be recording everything,” Sheriff Honsal said. “So, this will enhance our ability to capture evidence and statements, and also provide a level of transparency to the public.”
Though the cameras will capture every incident, to protect the privacy of the individuals we serve the videos will only become available to the public in some cases as applicable by state law.
“The videos that we capture on our body worn cameras are used for official purposes only,” Sheriff Honsal said. “There are only very few circumstances that these become a matter of public record. Otherwise, the videos will be used as evidence and sent to the District Attorney’s Office, or will be used for internal investigations and training.”
In addition to the development and availability of the new technology making the program more feasible, Sheriff Honsal says the program also would have not been possible without Measure Z funding.
“It costs about $75,000 to get the program started and then there’s upwards of $40,000 worth of expenses annually for cloud storage and equipment to keep this program going,” Sheriff Honsal said. “It has become the industry standard to have body worn cameras for all law enforcement contacts and I think it’s just really necessary now for law enforcement. So, we are very thankful for Measure Z to be able to afford this program.”