The LAPD Will Begin Deploying Body Cameras Next Week
On Monday the LAPD will begin the rollout of its plan to equip 7,000 body cameras on police officers.
The first 860 cameras will be deployed to officers in the department's Mission District in the Valley, which includes Sylmar and Panorama City. According to the L.A. Times, the next steps in the program's rollout will be the South L.A. Newton Division in mid-September and then specialized units such as SWAT.
The body cameras are seen as a welcome addition to the force as more scrutiny is being placed nationwide on police officers. The LAPD is no stranger to such criticism with high-profile fatal police shootings, including the shootings of Charly Keunang and Ezell Ford. One of the officers involved in the shooting of Keunang was wearing a body camera when it took place.
Although many see it as a step in the right direction, the introduction of the devices is not without controversy. The American Civil Liberties Union dropped its support of the program in April when it opposed two policy points: the first allowing officers to review body cam footage before making an initial statement about an incident, and the second not requiring footage to be released to the public. Both points, the ACLU contends, undermine the transparency the program strives for.
"If [officers] 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," Peter Bibring of the ACLU told NBC Los Angeles.
A few activists, according to ABC 7, oppose the program on the grounds that body cameras are just another surveillance tool for the police.
The police contend that footage can be considered evidence, which is typically not released to the public. Chief Charlie Beck says exceptions to the rules can be made on a case-by-case basis, and both the LAPD and the Police Commission say the policy can be adjusted down the road.
According to Mayor Eric Garcetti, all 7,000 cameras should be deployed by July of 2016, making it the largest police force to use body cameras on a wide scale. The first 860 cameras were purchased with $1.5 million in private donations.
A man talks at officers at LAPD Headquarters near a chalk message calling for the release of the video from the body cameras worn by police officers involved in the fatal police shooting of Charly Keunang (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)