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Crime & Justice

LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell talks body cams, human trafficking, sentiment toward law enforcement, more




Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell addresses a news conference prior to the destruction of approximately 3,400 guns and other weapons at the Los Angeles County Sheriffs' 22nd annual gun melt at Gerdau Steel Mill on July 6, 2015 in Rancho Cucamonga, California.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell addresses a news conference prior to the destruction of approximately 3,400 guns and other weapons at the Los Angeles County Sheriffs' 22nd annual gun melt at Gerdau Steel Mill on July 6, 2015 in Rancho Cucamonga, California.
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Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell stopped by the AirTalk studios Monday for his quarterly visit and to update us on the latest goings-on at the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

The population of the L.A. County jail system has changed from 20 years ago, McDonnell said.

"When you look at the mentally ill population, that is growing, and pretty dramatically. Our most acute mentally ill population has grown by 20 percent since the first of the year, and we're at a near crisis stage in trying to meet their needs."

McDonnell added that the percentage of those in jail who are addicts is much higher as well.

When it comes to body cams, McDonnell said that they did a six-month pilot program to see what would work best for the department's needs.

"The part that is not being addressed, certainly nationally — everybody wants body cameras on deputies and officers for the accountability piece, and I'm supportive of that, because it gives us a greater context to see what the full story was when we go to evaluate an incident. The downside is just the tremendous cost," McDonnell said.

One of the reasons: Storing all that video.

"The camera itself is the cheapest piece of the whole equation. When you're uploading eight, 10 or 12 hours of video onto a server, that server space gets expensive, but again that's only a part of the cost," McDonnell said. "The bigger piece is the personnel cost. When somebody is arrested, they get a traffic citation, they are involved in a use of force, so they bring litigation against the department, they want that tape, they want that video to be able to use for their case, so we go through discovery motions to provide that. The staff necessary who would be trained and certified that they have the ability to be able to pull the appropriate length of video and then to be able to go in and pixelate where appropriate uninvolved, innocent parties, to be able to present that then for court or if we're going to make it public, that piece there alone is a tremendous added expense ... and that's not being talked about anywhere nationally."

McDonnell talked with AirTalk about the transnational gang activity summit in L.A.

"It's developing a network, building relationships, identifying what the problems are around the world really, and this is a problem that is becoming much more difficult to deal with. The gangs are becoming that much more sophisticated," McDonnell said. "They are not only now involved in what we traditionally look at as gang crime, turf battles over narcotic sales, but rather identity theft and cyber-crime and sex trafficking. Things that really weren't on the radar of those involved in policing in the past, but now very much have to be a critical part of us moving forward."

For that summit, 70 law enforcement officials and prosecutors from seven different countries gathered to talk about how to share information and combat violent groups.

Larry got the sheriff's thoughts on national sentiment toward law enforcement in the wake of the killings of law enforcement officers in Texas, Illinois and Kentucky. Listen to the audio for more on that.

The sheriff also talked about L.A. County taking a look at harsher penalties for child sex traffickers in the hopes of curbing a commercial sex industry that forces young girls into prostitution.

Also on the docket: moving forward with plans to build a new Men’s Central Jail.

Guests:

Jim McDonnell, Sheriff of Los Angeles County

This story has been updated.