Spurred by the videotape of the Rodney G. King beating, the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a $467,190 plan to put video cameras in all 79 sheriff's patrol cars to provide a first-hand account of deputies' activities.
The decision marks the first time in the nation that a law enforcement agency will put video cameras in its entire patrol fleet, according to the camera's maker and the head of a national police officers' association. A similar pilot program has been discussed for the Los Angeles Police Department.
"All of our black and whites will have the cameras," said Assistant Sheriff Dennis W. LaDucer, who helped organize the Orange County project. "The intent is to build confidence . . . in the public that they can trust us, and we're willing to record what we do to build it."
The video cameras, which cost about $5,200 each, are the size of a fist and will be mounted from the rearview mirror. Installation of the cameras will begin in July.
The camera will be activated automatically when a car's emergency lights are turned on, and it can also be turned on manually. The cameras will be positioned to record the field of view directly ahead of the patrol car, but deputies can rotate the cameras 360 degrees.
Deputies will also wear wireless microphones to provide audio recordings.
According to the camera's manufacturer, CrimTec Corp. of Michigan, one study in Canada of videotaped drunk driving arrests found that guilty pleas rose substantially, while the overtime that officers spent in the courtroom dropped.
Orange County sheriff's officials began discussing the idea of using the video cameras after seeing a tape of a Texas police officer's murder. The shooting was taped by a mobile video camera unit, LaDucer said.
Those discussions began in January, 1991--before the King beating. But the King episode helped garner support for the project among county officials, LaDucer said.
Some cities around the country have begun to use video cameras in a few of their patrol units or for specific assignments. But John Moore, executive director of the National Police Officers Assn. in Louisville, Ky., said he knew of no other law enforcement agency in the country that has moved to put cameras in all its patrol vehicles.
PROSECUTION RESTS: Judge Stanley M. Weisberg refused to acquit four police officers accused of beating Rodney G. King. B1