SAN LORENZO, Calif. - Unless there is some unknown witness video out there, the public will not get a chance to see for themselves the interaction between an Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy arresting a fruit vendor last month because there were “technical issues” with his body camera, a county attorney told KTVU.
This news agency filed a California Public Record Request seeking the body cam video taken May 9 in San Lorenzo of the deputy arrested Pedro Martin Aguillar for selling fruit without a permit on the corner of the street. Aguillar, who was seeking asylum and was wearing an ICE monitor on his ankle, ran from the deputy, who ended up later arresting him for resisting arrest and selling fruit without the proper permits. The District Attorney later dismissed the resisting arrest charge, KTVU first reported.
At first, the sheriff’s department said it is the office’s policy not to release body camera video. Then, after a Public Records Request, county counsel Raymond Lara said it would not be released because of “technical issues while trying to download the footage." Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly later explained that the deputy had trouble downloading the file when he got back to the office. The deputy explained that in his page police report, obtained by KTVU. (See full report below)
KTVU also requested the body camera video from two deputies who arrested another another fruit vendor getting arrested the same day on a different street corner. But that request was also denied Lara, who said that case is still under investigation. The fruit vendor in that case may be a victim in a possible human trafficking scheme, first brought to light by KTVU, Kelly said.
Kelly said there are often technological issues with the current body cameras used by the sheriff’s department, an issue that came to a head in 2015, after it turned out that the deputies had not turned on their cameras during the high-speed chase and subsequent beating of suspect Stanislov Petrov.
Alameda County sheriff’s deputies were chasing Petrov from Castro Valley to San Francisco after a report of a car theft. Though they hadn’t turned on their issued body cameras, the two deputies were caught on surveillance video from a nearby business beating Petrov. The two deputies were fired and Petrov reached a $5.5 million settlement with the county in April.
Though in that case, the deputies had not turned on their equipment, the Petrov case brought to light the need for better technology and accountability, Kelly said.
Last month, the department announced that it bought 1,200 Axon Body 2 cameras in May, which are expected to be in use by July. The pricetag? $7.5 million over five years.
Kelly said the technology is state of the art, and download glitches should be a thing of the past. He also said that Sheriff Greg Ahern has been very clear about deputies not turning on their cameras when interfacing with the public. “He has said that anyone who doesn’t turn them on will be fired,” Kelly said.