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Pima County Sheriff’s Department to have body cameras at all districts before 2023

KOLD News 5-5:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Mar. 21, 2022 at 7:07 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - KOLD has new details on getting body cameras for all Pima County deputies.

The Pima County Board of Supervisor approved a $26 million deal to buy the body cameras for PCSD last year. So far, they’re only in use in one district.

PCSD says they are rolling out to cameras as quickly as they can, but last week’s shooting involving a 17-year-old and two deputies without cameras has people asking, “when?”

“It’s definitely more than a one year process. Like with any tool that we are issued, there’s training involved and we want to make sure that our deputies are trained and our corrections officers are trained on how to utilize their new tool,” Deputy Marissa Hernandez said.

PCSD has nearly 500 of the latest Axon 3 model body cameras, but only about 50 have been issued. These are in the Green Valley district, a test group for the rest of the districts.

“It’s been really successful in green valley. We haven’t had any major issues we’ve had to work out, so we’re hoping it will continue to be a smooth rollout for the rest of the districts,” she said.

Deputy Hernandez says PCSD is working on moving the cameras to the other districts, but it’s a lengthy process. She believes each district will have body cameras by the end of the year.

But before that can happen, there’s at least 6 hours of training and then additional training once the camera is issued.

“It’s a lot of logistics. So, it’s not as simple as just issuing the camera to the person. As I mentioned, they have to go through training. After that training is complete, that deputy has to get a cellphone – it’s Bluetooth activated so that way they can download the evidence. There’s also modems that have to be installed in each patrol car,” she said.

Deputy Hernandez says, when Sheriff Chris Nanos took office, he wanted to act on transparency for the department through body cameras.

And transparency is exactly what the family of Alex Lewis is after.

The 19-year-old was shot by a deputy last year. Lewis allegedly rammed a patrol vehicle when they were chasing him. When Lewis got out of the truck, a deputy mistook his key fob for a weapon. The family has been fighting for body cameras since his death.

“Their concern has always been transparency and the ability for citizens to know and have information from law enforcement,” said Eduardo Coronado, the family’s attorney.

He says a body camera could have helped provide answers to Lewis’s family. Coronado says he’s worked on similar cases, but that there was typically a body camera or dash camera involved.

“It does provide some clarity at least and that’s all they’re concerned about,” he said.

Vail will be the next district to receive body cameras in the first week of April.

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