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California

San Francisco County jail deputies to be fitted with body cameras

Ross Mirkarimi

San Francisco County Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi listens to Public Defender Jeff Adachi during a news conference about deputies allegedly staging cage-fight-style matches between inmates.

(Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle)

Deputies working at a San Francisco County jail facility will now be required to wear body cameras -- a move spurred by a series of allegations that inmates were forced to perform gladiator-style fights for gambling and entertainment purposes.

At least 30 San Francisco County sheriff’s deputies will be outfitted with cameras as part of a pilot program that will begin in the next several months in county jail No. 4, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said.

“It’s my belief that fitting our deputies with body cameras, combined with personnel, training and policy reforms that are also in the works, are tools that will help to foster a more durable trust with the public, our inmates and their loved ones,” Mirkarimi said Tuesday in statement.

Mirkarimi moved funds from the department’s materials and supplies budget to pay for the cameras because he said he never received money he requested from the county.

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The cameras, he said, will allow the department to record and monitor interactions between deputies and inmates. Mirkarimi said the cameras would better ensure “the safety of inmates” and protect deputies from “unfounded allegations.”

Because the cameras are untested, Mirkarimi will create new policies, including privacy rights, data storage, personnel training, consequences for failing to adhere, rules for its application and public records request.

On April 10, Mirkarimi announced that the FBI was investigating alleged jail misconduct. Four deputies involved in the fights have been placed on administrative leave, he said.

The San Francisco police chief and district attorney’s office have also launched investigations into the alleged fighting.

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Public Defender Jeff Adachi said inmates claimed they were pitted against one another in two contests.

Inmate Ricardo Palikiko Garcia can be heard in a recording telling Adachi that Deputy Scott Neu threatened to hurt him if he didn’t fight. Adachi said Neu arranged matches on the seventh floor of the Hall of Justice jail.

Garcia told Adachi he was forced to fight a much larger inmate, identified as Stanley Harris. Harris also said Neu threatened to beat him up if he didn’t comply with his demands.

Harris reported the inmates were also forced to gamble for their food.

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