City police to get body cameras
By Lorenzo Morotti
The Sausalito Police Department is one step closer to securing body-worn cameras, a move that would bring the department in line with the rest of Marin’s law enforcement agencies.
The City Council pledged last week to set aside funds for the cameras, despite this year’s budget shortfall.
“Body-worn cameras are clearly a priority and funding them reflects our values as a community,” Mayor Susan Cleveland-Knowles said. “While we are facing significant revenue losses and we’re digging deep into our reserves due to the COVID-19 related economic downturn, we are committed to identifying money in our budget to fund this item.”
The department’s plan to purchase 30 Axon body-worn cameras would cost about $165,000 for the first two years, then about $51,000 a year for maintenance until 2025, said Sausalito police Capt. William Fraass.
“The first year is higher because it covers the initial costs of equipment, installation, etc., for the program,” Fraass said. “After the first year, the costs are lower and remain the same, covering aspects of the program such as storage, licensing, technical assistance/ assurance and maintenance.”
The cameras will be issued to the department’s 20 sworn officers and three parking enforcement/ community service officers.
Fraass said the agency will have an extra five cameras on hand, and it will also upgrade its outdated in-car camera system with Axon cameras.
Police Chief John Rohrbacher said the purchase of this equipment is something he has been advocating since 2014, when the Marin County Grand Jury issued a report requesting that all agencies purchase the technology. In a follow up report in June 2018, the city said it would buy the cameras as soon as the budget allowed.
“We are the only law enforcement agency in Marin County without body worn cameras for its officers,” Rohrbacher said. “It was at the top of list of the things to ask for this incoming budget.”
The upgrade was slated for this year, but the request was derailed
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The Sausalito Police Department is the last Marin County police agency to lack body cameras for its officers. Above, a San Rafael officer wears a camera in February.
ALAN DEP — MARIN INDEPENDENT JOURNAL
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by the $4.3 million budget deficit.
When the community learned Rohrbacher would be tabling the idea because of the deficit, the Active Allies of Sausalito Coordinating Committee sent a letter to the council. The letter, signed by 100 residents, called on the council to find the funding to ensure the agency becomes more transparent and accountable.
“We are aware that this is an extremely difficult time economically for our community in the face of the COVID- 19 pandemic and cuts will have to be made,” the letter says. “However, now is absolutely not the time to opt out of a critical policing tool that provides clear accountability as well as evidence and data.”
About a dozen people also participated in the council meeting to express support for funding the program.
“Every other law enforcement agency was able to find funds to deliver on this program, and I think it’s really important, given today’s day and age, that we take care of this issue,” said Nancy Herschbaum, Sausalito resident. “I think that it sends a signal to the community.”
Council members questioned whether the cameras should be purchased using the police department’s budget.
Rohrbacher said the department’s budget was unable to cover the cost as most of it is dedicated to paying its employees.
Out of the department’s $6.9 million budget, 82% goes toward compensating 26 employees and 18% goes to paying for supplies, City Manager Adam Politzer said. He said the money will be coming out of the general fund.
The city can avoid hiring another employee to review tapes. Instead it will continue to use a propert y/ ev idence technician through a shared service agreement with Mill Valley, Rohrbacher said.