Today is Monday, August 31st.
That means it’s the last day of the month, 24 days before the first day of Fall, and one week prior to Labor Day.
It’s also the day LAPD implements its body cam program with 860 of its 7,000 officers.
From the LATimes.com:
LAPD’s long-awaited body cameras will hit the streets on Monday
by Kate Mather
Starting Monday, many Los Angeles police officers will hit the streets with new equipment: body cameras.
After nearly two years of fundraising, testing and negotiating policy, Monday’s rollout marks a significant moment for the police department’s long-awaited body camera program. The city plans to purchase and deploy more than 7,000 devices in the coming months, making it the largest in the country to use the cameras on a wide scale.
This is a huge step for LAPD, not known as necessarily the first department in the nation to undertake large LE ventures.
The first batch of cameras — 860 devices purchased with about $1.5 million in private donations — will be given to officers within the next month, the LAPD’s chief information officer told the Police Commission on Tuesday.
Officers working the LAPD’s Mission Division — which covers San Fernando Valley cities including Sylmar and Panorama City — will get their cameras on Monday, Maggie Goodrich told the commission. Officers assigned to South L.A.’s Newton Division will start using the cameras in mid-September, followed by those working specialized units, such as Central Division traffic and SWAT.
One quick aside: the City of Los Angeles consists of 503 square miles with a population of 3.8 million. There are slightly fewer than 9,000 officers on LAPD, yielding an officer-to-citizen ratio of 1 officer per 447 citizens.
In contrast, the City of New York consists of 304 square miles with a population of 8.4 million. There are about 34,500 officers on NYPD, yielding an officer-to-citizen ratio of 1 officer per 243 citizens, almost twice as much as LAPD.
The greatest points of contention with police bodycams involve privacy, as in: how and when will they be operating, who can access the take, view the take, and how long will the take be archived.
Concerns continue to linger over the LAPD’s use of the new technology, particularly over who will get to see the videos and when.
The LAPD policy — approved by the Police Commission’s 3-1 vote in April — allows officers to review the footage before writing reports or giving statements to internal investigators. But the LAPD has said it does not plan on publicly releasing the recordings unless they are part of a criminal or civil court proceeding.
This, naturally, pisses off the ACLU.
There are already large issues with mass technology in law enforcement. Dashcams have been around for a number of years and many departments wired officers for sound from said dashcams, though their sphere of functionality diminishes with distance from the vehicle.
Two subjects come immediately into play, of course: initial purchase price for the systems and server / storage prices as well as issues also involving reliability, expandability, location and uploading.
My department, as did many others, experienced problems with informational uploading of dashcams at EOW (end of watch). Car were parked in the lot in order to have their drives uploaded only to have their batteries killed due to the lengthy amount of time it took for up to twenty cars to fight for the server simultaneously. Some vehicles couldn’t be utilized for the next shift as they were still uploading.
Bodycams won’t completely replace dashcams, either. They have two entirely different perspectives; one locked from the dashboard of a law enforcement vehicle, and the second from a mobile but shaky platform called a human being.
But let there be no doubt whatsoever: whatever the take of a bodycam, it is eminently discoverable and subpoenable by law under court order.
For cops, the questions are: does the bodycam go on the moment I go BOW (beginning of watch)? Is it on when I urinate, defecate, go to lunch or dinner, talk to children, have a casual encounter with a citizen totally uninvolved in a call for service? Can I turn it on and off at will? What if it’s on when I talk to someone who wants to remain anonymous, or if I consult with a CI or confidential informant?
What if, as a citizen, officers come to my house and provide me with advice or information about a problem I have, and I don’t like the outcome? Can’t I complain about the results and demand access to the bodycam take in order to justify my complaint and demand a different outcome? If I can do that once, why can’t every citizen do that when they don’t care for the outcomes of their own police encounters? After all, I know my call, as a citizen complainant, was recorded by at least one police bodycam.
An overall collection of police bodycam articles and policies is here.
A reporters’ interactive map of police bodycam laws and policies is here.
A US DOJ bodycam implementation guide is here.
An ACLU police bodycam article is here.
My department is still considering the purchase of a bodycam / server system. I suspect it is waiting to see where the inevitable lawsuits will fall and how they will fall.