Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department tests body worn cameras

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KTVU) - The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department is beginning to test body worn cameras Friday.

The first model deputies will try is a chest mounted version that turns on with the flip of a switch.

They may later test one that records continuously or possibly one that mounts on the ear or on glasses.

"The size of the camera, how light the camera is, and how easy it is to use is going to be a big seller with us," says Lt. Jim Ross.

This comes on the heels of national outrage over police incidents in Missouri, New York and South Carolina. Officials in Santa Cruz County say in a time when cellphone cameras are everywhere, body worn cameras will add another view to the mix.

"Emerging technology is the wave of the future. And in law enforcement it's just going to become like us putting on our gun belt, or putting on a vest," says Lt. Kelly Kent.

Like those things, they say these cameras will simply be another tool.

"You may have different interpretations about what that video or audio means. You know it's not an exact and certainly there's nothing magical about these cameras. Hopefully it will provide us with some additional answers," says Lt. Ross.

Several departments in the Bay Area are using the cameras already, though at least a few agencies have expressed reservations about how they might affect officers in the field.

"For us it's a no brainer. This is something our agency won't have a problem with. We want to use these devices. It's just a matter of picking the right one," says Lt. Kent.

Resident, Pete Shamshoian says he won't mind an extra set of eyes on a scene. "It'll probably eliminate a great degree of suspicion that happens to float around all the time," he says.

The department plans to test at least three different kinds of cameras before making a decision. They'll then outline formal policies and procedures for using them.