The Los Angeles Police Department has begun testing small cameras to be clipped to officers’ uniforms as a potential new crime fighting and public safety tool.
Thirty officers from the LAPD’s Central Division who primarily patrol Skid Row were issued the cameras last week as part of a pilot project to determine how well the cameras work. The program is part of a larger effort to eventually equip approximately 600 officers with the cameras.
LAPD spokesman Gregory Baek said the cameras could potentially be very beneficial. The department could review footage when discrepancies arise in use of force cases in which a citizen claims an officer was involved in misconduct, Baek said. The officers have been instructed to use the cameras during traffic stops and other incidents in which they make contact with the public. Both audio and video images will be recorded, and the cameras will be used in tandem with video cameras installed in patrol cars.
“The cameras can see the whole thing happen,” he added. “It is a public safety tool for both the officers and the public.”
The length of the testing period has not been determined, but it is likely to be approximately six months. Los Angeles Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff raised approximately $1.2 million from private donors to purchase 600 cameras and the related software. Only approximately 30 of the cameras have been acquired so far for testing, and the department has not ruled out testing other models or decided on which camera to buy, Baek said.
Capt. Eric Davis, of the LAPD’s Wilshire Division, said it is inevitable that the department would begin using the new technology, but it is yet to be determined when officers from the local area would receive body cameras.
“It’s a great officer safety tool, and a great way to analyze what they do. It could also be a great investigative tool.” Davis said. “It’s something that is going to happen sooner than later.”
The LAPD plans to form an advisory committee to address policy concerns about how the cameras will be used. The public will also have an opportunity to weigh-in on use of the body cameras through an on-line forum that has yet to be established.
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