Charlie Beck

LAPD Chief Says Camera Neglect a Budget Issue

Audit finds many cameras in stations are poorly maintained and do not keep video for long enough to aid investigations

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday he was not surprised by a new audit showing surveillance cameras inside the department’s stations are broken, poorly located and that maintenance is spotty.

In comments to the department’s civilian oversight commission, Beck indicated the problems stemmed from lack of funding following years of budget cuts.

"Folks have to remember, we're beginning to exit the greatest recession in our lifetime and there's a cost to it,” Beck said. "So as we emerge from that, we have a lot of work to do."

He pledged to fix the issue, and said there is a commitment to find funding to improve the camera systems, which many see as a way to stem lawsuits brought against the department.

"The Inspector General’s report was not a surprise to us," Beck said after the meeting. "We have asked for budgetary assessments for the last couple of years to improve our cameras in the stations.

"The city’s budget crisis has precluded us from being able to fix it to the extent that we would like," he said.

The report stemmed from several incidents inside stations when surveillance video failed to capture what enough of what happened, hindering investigations.

In one high-profile case, a man died while in custody at the Southwest Division station.

The lack of video footage also frustrated an investigation into a shooting that occurred at LAPD's West Traffic Bureau, according to the report released by Inspector General Alex Bustamante.

In that incident, a man walked into the largely unsecured lobby area of the station and opened fire on the two desk clerks, just steps away from a community room. That shooting resulted in the gunman's death, and left one of the two involved officers injured.

In addition to the hardware and maintenance problems, Bustamante’s report indicated the current 30-day storage time for video was a concern, as investigations may not be completed or incidents even reportd in that time frame.

Beck acknowledged that some among the rank and file officers are less than happy to be photographed while doing their job, but he says the leadership of the department as well as the police union and most officers are committed to the camera system as a way to protect themselves and the city from unwarranted lawsuits.

The commission voted to request a report on what needs to be done to place cameras in the right places and how much such an overhaul would cost.

That report is expected back in two months.

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