LAPD to Get Body Cameras. Will They Tamper with Those, Too?

So, now about that whole 'accountability' thing ...The big news coming out of Los
Angeles (besides the rain) is that the city is going to buy 7,000
body cameras to outfit all its police officers. From the
Los Angeles Times

Advocates say the cameras will be a valuable tool for the
department. The ability to record audio and video of police
encounters with the public, they say, could help guard against
officer misconduct and clear cops falsely accused of

Steve Soboroff, president of the Police Commission, has spent
months raising private money to outfit officers with on-body
cameras. He said the mayor’s plan would supplement the contract the
LAPD was already negotiating with the camera vendor, eventually
bringing more cameras to officers on the streets.

More than $1 million raised through private donations will help
pay for the cameras, thus avoiding City Hall budget

I’m a bit fascinated by the idea that they raised money for the
cameras from private donations, but I’m reluctant to try to guess
what it may mean without knowing who the donors were.

LA Weekly notes that one of the police unions is
supporting the cameras, on the condition that officers will be able
to review the video before writing up reports, which has got the
American Civil Liberties Union saying, “Um,

“That would be a ridiculous policy,” argues Peter Bibring, an
ACLU attorney.

Bibring argues that allowing officers to review the videos
beforehand could taint their recollections, or make it easier to

“They’re less likely to lie if they don’t know what the video
caught and what it didn’t,” Bibring says. “This is enormously
important. It’s the difference between this being a tool to promote
accountability and this being a tool to assist in cover-ups.”

Then there’s the matter of whether officers will tamper with the
cameras. Earlier in the year, the Los Angeles Police Department
discovered that officers were tampering with their dash cameras to

keep from being recorded
. Again from the Los Angeles
in April:

An inspection by Los Angeles Police Department investigators
found about half of the estimated 80 cars in one South L.A. patrol
division were missing antennas, which help capture what officers
say in the field. The antennas in at least 10 more cars in nearby
divisions had also been removed.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and other top officials learned of the
problem last summer but chose not to investigate which officers
were responsible. Rather, the officials issued warnings against
continued meddling and put checks in place to account for antennas
at the start and end of each patrol shift.

So I’ll end in a reminder that body cameras themselves aren’t a
solution, but rather an
extremely useful tool
to increase transparency and lead to more
accountability. But they won’t work if police find ways to avoid
the transparency, nor if they are shielded from accountability in
situations where they are caught engaging in misconduct.

from Hit & Run

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