San Diego County Jails Will Use Body Cameras Following Damning State Audit

Part of the a new pilot programFollowing a sting operation, San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputies will be wearing body cameras at their county jail. state auditIt was found that deputies failed to adequately respond or prevent the deaths of inmates. 

Letter to the Governor Gavin Newsom of the California Legislature, Acting California State Auditor Michael Tilden said, “From 2006 to 2020, 185 people died in San Diego County’s jails—one of the highest totals among counties in the State.”

It First phase of the body cam programDeputies and specialized units were assigned 72 cameras. They also served as supervisors at Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility, Santee. Officials from the sheriff’s office stated that they would phase in body cameras to other jails. In a statement Sheriff Kelly Martinez stated that “This is ultimately about safety for the people in custody and the workers in our facilities.”  

It state auditThey found numerous instances where deputies failed to perform safety checks properly in 30 cases of in-custody deaths. According to security camera footage, jail staff often only glanced inmates’ rooms for a fraction of a second. Staff discovered that several inmates were dead after they had looked more closely.

Van Swearingen, a law partner at the law firm Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld, filed a Forensic legal proceedingsOn behalf of eight plaintiffs, to improve the conditions in San Diego prisons. Plaintiffs complain about county jail’s response to mental and medical health needs. The state audit stated that this needed attention. 

Swearingen tells ReasonAccording to him, body cameras are not sufficient to aid inmates. He hopes that the lawsuit could improve safeguards against drug overdoses. In San Diego, there have been 52 suicides in the last 15 years. Lester Marroquin was a suicide that the audit did not consider since it took place in 2021. Marroquin died from drowning after his cell was moved from high-observation to lower monitoring. Even though jail staff were aware of his history with suicide attempts due to water intoxication, Marroquin’s death was not recorded.

The sheriff’s report says that there were 220 suspected overdoses by 2021. Of these, 4 resulted in the death of the victim. Swearingen claims that Jerry Aleman and Saxon Rodriguez as well as Ronaldino Estrada and Jonathan Whitlock all died of fentanyl overdoses. 

The plaintiffs request that their lawsuit be classified as an action in a group; they want to recognize the rights of prisoners whose conditions, policies, or practices are at odds with them; and to order the prison staff to refrain from creating such terrible conditions. American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties, DLA Piper and Law Office of Aaron J. Fischer are also available. Get joined Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld in filing the complaint. 

“I definitely support body cameras, but there must be much more change than just body-worn cameras… People are dying from preventable deaths,” Swearingen tells Reason