Los Angeles Turns to Cameras to Prevent Wrongful Detention

By Laura Spadanuta

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is providing point-and-shoot cameras to some of its officers in an attempt to cut back on wrongful incarcerations reports the Los Angeles Times.  The effort is currently a pilot program.

Deputies provided with cameras are using them to take photos of people who are cited but do no have identification. The idea is that having the photos on file will be helpful in the long run, because then if run a person's name in the future and see warrants, they may be able to use the photographs on file to determine whether it is just a name match and they have the wrong person.

Wrongful incarceration is an issue in LA County; a recent Times investigation found that the county "incarcerated people mistaken for wanted criminals more than 1,480 times over five years." From the Times:

Sheriff's officials expect to give cameras to additional deputies in the future and said that having more photographs attached to outstanding warrants will allow judges to quickly realize when innocent people have been picked up on warrants not meant for them. Under the new program, deputies will also be required to fill out a form that compares the newly detained person's identifying features, such as the unique number assigned to a suspect's fingerprints, side by side with those of the person listed on the warrant. A supervisor will have to review the form when the suspect is booked.

The article adds that the County also hopes to begin taking the fingerprints of everyone who has been cited, which is an even more accurate identifier than a photo.

The article goes on to state:

While the reforms address some of the reasons why people are mistakenly arrested on warrants, they do little to deal with criticism from victims who say they made repeated pleas that went ignored by deputies. The Sheriff's Department has a stated policy to launch investigations when inmates protest that they've been misidentified, but records show that investigations were conducted for only a small fraction of the people who courts eventually ruled were not the right suspects.



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