LAPD Begins Rollout of Body-Camera Program

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – LA took a step closer to becoming the largest U.S. city to equip its police with body cameras as officers patrolled the streets on Monday using the new technology.
     The city plans to eventually outfit 7,000 Los Angeles Police Department officers with body cameras. On Monday, officers in San Fernando Valley received training and hit the streets with the chest-mounted cameras.
     “This is a big moment for us,” Capt. Todd Chamberlain told reporters. “I think they realize that they’re making history today.”
     LAPD introduced the rollout at an early-morning press conference in Mission Hills.
     The city has acquired 850 body cameras using $1.5 million in private donations, City News Service reported. It will cost $10 million to outfit the entire LAPD.
     New York, Chicago, and Seattle are among the cities that have initiated programs to introduce body cameras but only New Orleans and Albuquerque have full-body camera programs in place, according to an Aug. 13 report by the Huffington Post.
     The debate over whether officers should use the technology became more pronounced after the police shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, and the deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and Eric Garner in New York.
     A YouGov/Economist poll earlier this year found that almost 90 percent of Americans support the use of body cameras.
     There is close to universal support for body cameras in California as well. Five out of six California voters support such programs, according to a Tulchin Research poll.
     Seventy-four percent of voters agreed that authorities should release body camera footage if an officer is suspected of misconduct, and 72 percent of voters agreed that footage should be made public if an officer uses force.
     Though the LAPD’s personal video program will become citywide, it is not without its critics.
     In approving the program, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has said the department reserves the right not to publicly release the footage captured on the cameras.
     ACLU Southern California has said the “public deserves to understand how that power is used, not to be told ‘just trust us,’ whether the ‘us’ is the police department or its civilian oversight.”
     “The policy allows officers involved in critical incidents like shootings to view body-worn video footage from their and other officers’ cameras before making an initial statement,” ACLU of Southern California said in an April 24 statement. “That at best taints officers’ firsthand recollection of the incident with the perception viewed on the video, and at worst allows officers who are willing to lie to cover up misconduct an opportunity to provide an account that’s consistent with video evidence.”

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