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Lompoc City Council approves purchase of body-worn cameras for police department

The Lompoc Police Department was the last remaining local department to approve the use of body-worn cameras. They're expected to begin use in November.
lompoc pd
Posted at 6:58 PM, Aug 16, 2023

When KSBY met for a one-on-one interview with Lompoc Police Chief Martin last week, he said his primary goal as chief was to build bonds in the community.

One way his department will soon be able to do so is through the use of officer-worn body cameras.

A year ago, officials with the Santa Maria Police Department announced their officers would begin using body cameras, which left the Lompoc Police Department as the last local law enforcement agency to start using them.

“I think they should have had them five years ago,” said Lompoc resident Susan Koehl.

Kevin Martin says five years ago, he and then-Lompoc Police Chief Joseph Mariani had tried to have the department begin using body cameras, but the City of Lompoc didn’t have the money.

“It was not really the money to buy the body cams, it is the infrastructure that it takes to support it,” he explained. “The storage of the data, the staff that it takes to do the redaction, and the request to process the body cam video. That really is where the dollar figure starts to go up.”

Now in 2023, Martin says the City of Lompoc’s biannual budget allocated more than $300,000 to purchase body cameras for the department, and Tuesday night, the City Council approved the initiative.

“As far as the police department is concerned, we have nothing to hide," Martin added. "Obviously, there will be cases that we can’t release due to criminal investigations and the requirements to protect those investigations. But, in those situations where there is something to show, we will happily show what that video is."

He says 55 body cameras have been purchased for Lompoc police, which Chief Martin adds are equipped with triggers that start recording upon the sound of gunfire or foot pursuits. He says the cameras will be worn by jail officers as well.

“Every officer will have access to a body cam, and they will be expected to wear them,” he told KSBY. “They will be expected to have them turned on when they have contact with the public.”

Susan Koehl has lived in Lompoc for quite some time and says knowing the officers in her town will soon be wearing body cameras gives her reassurance.

“It protects the person, and it protects the police," she said. "When I was working for Lompoc transportation, they finally put cameras on the buses, and it helped a lot."

“The word 'transparency' kind of sums it all up," Martin added. "It will be documented on video, with audio, and people can make their own opinions once they see the video."

Chief Martin says Tuesday night’s City Council approval gave his department the green light to upgrade the dash cams on their police vehicles as well.

It is expected that Lompoc police officers will begin using body-worn cameras this November.