LAPD to Begin Equipping More Officers With Body Cameras

Body cameras will be handed out to Los Angeles police officers at the Mission Station starting Monday, the first of 860 cameras that will be distributed to officers in three divisions.

Officers at the Mission Division will be the first to get training on the cameras, followed by officers at the Newton Division on Sept. 15 and the Central traffic and specialized divisions on Sept. 28, LAPD Chief Information Officer Maggie Goodrich told the Police Commission.

Body cameras are a subject of disagreement between civil libertarians and the LAPD over what was universally viewed as a benefit to police community relations.

Neighborhood activist Prentiss Jenkins says he has long believed in the benefits of the new police technology, but not if the footage remains secret.

"It is impossible for you to be transparent if you are not going to allow the public to see it," he said.

The LAPD said that, like other evidence, only in rare occasions will the images be released to the public.

"We do not disclose in-car video, on-body camera video, surveillance video that is part of an investigative record," LAPD administrator Arif Alikhan said at a Police Commission meeting Tuesday.

Police Commissioner Robert Saltzman and the American Civil Liberties Union also took issue with a policy allowing officers to review body camera video before making a statement about an incident.

"If they are shown the video of an incident before they are required to make a statement about it, it can shade their story that is consistent with the video and allowing that opportunity doesn't increase public trust in investigations," said Peter Bibring of the ACLU.

But the police union defended the practice, saying ultimately the video is designed to correctly detail what happened.

While the Police Commission earlier sided with the LAPD's policy on how the on-camera video will be seen and used, critics say they will continue to seek changes in that policy. The matter is set to be reviewed once again by the Police Commission in six months.

Goodrich said the department spent the past few months installing the network and infrastructure for the body cameras.

LAPD officials chose a Taser body camera that is designed to be worn on the chest. The cameras were donated to the department through the Los Angeles Police Foundation.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has also called for a $10 million plan to outfit the entire police department with body cameras. The City Council earlier this year approved a budget that allocates half of the funding needed to purchase 7,000 additional cameras. Officials are applying for federal grants to pay for the other half of the camera purchase costs.

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