San Diego’s police department became one of the first big cities in the country to outfit patrol officers with body-worn cameras when it began rolling out the technology in June 2014.

But SDPD wasn’t the first agency in San Diego County to take the body camera plunge – Coronado and Escondido’s police departments got the devices to their officers before SDPD. Increasingly across the country, police departments are jumping on the body camera bandwagon after President Obama promoted the technology as a way to bolster community trust of police.

Locally, Chula Vista also has joined the three other agencies in deploying cameras to its officers. The remaining seven agencies – Carlsbad, El Cajon, La Mesa, National City, Oceanside, San Diego Harbor Police and the Sheriff’s Department – are in various stages of considering purchasing the equipment. The Sheriff’s Department, the largest agency here without them, has solicited proposals from companies to provide them.

“We have been working on an appropriate policy and researching best practices and equipment,” spokeswoman Jan Caldwell said. “We hope to launch a 90-day testing to begin after the first of the year.”

The map below shows which San Diego departments have the cameras and what each department says about them. One note: The Sheriff’s Department has jurisdiction over unincorporated areas of the county as well, though they’re not marked on the map.

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    Written by Liam Dillon

    Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

    Greg Chick
    Greg Chick subscriber

    Body cameras can hear and see what someone who might not have good sight or hearing.  As a person deaf in one ear and blind in one eye, I know I might not know an officer said "raise your hands" or what ever, or if he is on my blind side, might not see him.   I have bumped into people before, what if I bumped into a cop with my hands at the level of his gun?  I am white, so I have no liability there, but, I understand black or white there is a dangerous problem in this country, cops are part of it.   I understand that everyone is scared on both sides, so let US, pun intended, establish some war rules.  After this seems like a war, cops n robbers... or cops and anyone seeming to fit the order of needing to be arrested, shot, or abused.  When some people get abused, they fight back, .... thus the war I mentioned.

    David Benz
    David Benz subscriber

    Body cams must be mandatory and recording the entire time the police are on duty otherwise the program is a waste of time.  Any attempt to disable a cam should be an immediate fireable offense and any potential crime related to a disabled cam must be considered an automatic admission of guilt.

    rhylton subscriber

    This is all well and good, but it may be more useful to note or add that  while San Diego was the first large city to deploy these things, the failure (refusal I now say) of  so many of its officers to use them should be more troubling than has been reported. I am massively disappointed by the passivity.

    I suggest that the writer of this article make an examination of desperado Jones' flight-path and then compute the duration of  "rapidly evolving and dynamic  pursuit.." Perhaps he, like me, will conclude that the explanations or excuses that have been offered  are filled with adverbs and adjectives and precious little else. Perhaps he, like me, will conclude that many officers are simply refusing to use the new-fangled things; much the same way that others, in some places, are refusing to get out of their cars to do their jobs. Fear of TouTube, some say.Exactly I say, and that explains Zimmerman's refusal to release video-evidence, irrespective of its source.

    Jeff Hammett
    Jeff Hammett subscribermember

    For the departments that have already deployed cameras, what are their policies for when they will be used? After a shooting in San Diego a few weeks ago I think it came out that officers have to manually enable their cameras to record. So if a situation escalates quickly an officer may not press record and  then there is no footage.

    Are any of the local departments using camera technology that continuously records and then discards the footage after a short amount of time if no action is taken? This could still result in lost footage if the officer forgot to hit save, but might be a better approach.