Monday, October 31, 2011

Santa Barbara County Grand Jury recommends cameras in police cars

Guadalupe chief to ask council for cash

By Brian Bullock / Staff Writer / | Posted: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 12:05 am |

The Santa Barbara County Grand Jury thinks all law enforcement patrol cars in the county should be equipped with video cameras.

For the Guadalupe Police Department — one of only two agencies in the county without them — that means an investment of around $65,000. Chief George Mitchell will put forth that information and a request to fund the effort to the City Council when it meets at 6 tonight at City Hall, 918 Obispo St.

According to the report, all county law enforcement vehicles are equipped with audio/visual equipment except those in the cities of Guadalupe and Santa Barbara. The report recommends those cities have such equipment installed on its patrol cars — 35 in Santa Barbara and seven in Guadalupe.

The grand jury estimates the cost per unit between $8,000 and $9,500, an amount not many departments can afford right now, according to Mitchell.

“Due to reduced budgets that all police departments are experiencing, they’re all looking for grant funding, so its getting hard to find,” said Mitchell. “We have no funding this year with the Police Department budget, so we’ll take it to the next level and ask the City Council.

“For us, it would have to be something that was planned for. Other than that, there would have to be some kind grant windfall or something like that.”

The report, published earlier this month, says that in an effort to maintain openness and accountability in government and to help protect agencies from litigation, audio/video technology should be installed in patrol vehicles. The report was in response to requests in July that local law enforcement agencies provide more transparency in their operations.

The county Sheriff’s Department installed the equipment in 53 of its patrol cars back in 2000. The report also indicates the Santa Maria Police Department has had similar equipment in all 32 of its cars since 2000, while Lompoc installed the equipment this year in all 11 of its patrol cars.

“It’s basically been driven by the grand jury’s look into the cameras,” Mitchell said of his request. “So we’re just trying to be in compliance with addressing their concerns and seeing what we can come up with.”

The council also will hear reports on its Guadalupe Street (Highway 1) improvement and street overlay projects.

Approximately $2 million in overlay and Guadalupe Street (Highway 1) improvement projects were recently finished, and City Engineer Dennis Delzeit will brief the council on their completion.

The projects were accomplished with a variety of funding, including Measure D, Proposition 1B, State Transportation Program Exchange funds and federal funding, according to the staff report.

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