John McMahon

San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon speaks to the media on April 10 about deputies involved in the apparent beating, tasing and arrest of Francis Jared Pusok of Apple Valley while being taken into custody on April 9 in the High Desert. (Rick Sforza — Staff File Photo)

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 04/18/15, 9:24 PM PDT

In the wake of the April 9 arrest in which an Apple Valley man was beaten, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is committed to developing and implementing a program to outfit deputies with body cameras.

It will, however, take some time.

“We’re going to do it right, We’re going to make sure we have the right (data) storage systems in place,” Sheriff John McMahon said in an interview. “I don’t want to jump into something and find out a few months down the road we made the wrong decision in haste.”

Responding to the April 9 beating of Francis Pusok by sheriff’s deputies after a lengthy pursuit in Apple Valley and Hesperia, County Supervisors James Ramos and Robert Lovingood last week called on McMahon to quickly implement a body camera pilot program and bring a recommendation for consideration on a larger-scale program.

McMahon, however, has never been one to cave to pressure, and said he wants to ensure that he takes the right proposal to the Board of Supervisors when the time comes.

Use of force by police in the last year resulting in the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri; New York City, and most recently, North Charleston, South Carolina, prompted a national debate over whether body cameras should be worn by police. Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. have countered that the cost to redact the videos by blurring the images of bystanders, victims and witnesses caught in the camera eye creates logistical problems outside their reach, and have proposed restricting, or outright blocking, public access to body camera videos.

The video footage of the Francis Pusok beating in Apple Valley is the latest incident fueling the ongoing debate over body cameras.

A news video of Pusok’s arrest shows deputies crowding around him, kicking and punching him while he is on the ground. In an interview, Pusok estimated he had been punched or kicked 100 times by deputies. He also said it wasn’t the first time he was abused by authorities, and that it was his fear of police based on earlier incidents that prompted him to flee from deputies in the first place.

Sheriff’s officials have declined to comment on Pusok’s allegations, noting that Pusok has already announced he plans to sue the department.

McMahon has placed 10 deputies on paid leave pending the outcomes of investigations by his office and by the FBI, which announced it would review the case to determine whether there were any civil rights violations.

The Pusok beating occurred about five months after the Journal of Quantitative Criminology published a study, “The Effect of Police Body-Worn Cameras on Use of Force and Citizens’ Complaints Against the Police: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” co-authored by Rialto Police Chief William “Tony” Farrar.

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