By Shirley Hawkins
The Los Angeles Police Department is testing on -body cameras that will be deployed by summer 2014.
Thirty LAPD police officers have volunteered to participate in the 90-day experiment after which 600 cameras will be purchased and deployed.
“On-body cameras and the continued addition of in-car cameras are going to be an absolute transformative thing for both sides of the camera from a law enforcement perspective,” said Steve Soboroff , president of the L.A. Police Commission. “And I just can’t wait. Because when you get a real record of what’s happening it makes investigating a lot simpler. More importantly, I believe it’s going to change behavior. I think when people know they’re being recorded, their actions may be different and the ‘he said-she said, let me lawyer up and let me do this and do that’ — I hope that those days get over quickly.”
The department raised about $1.3 million for the cameras. Officers are currently trying out three different types of cameras to see which one they like best. Donors who contributed money to purchase the cameras include Occidental Petroleum, the Dodgers, filmmaker Steven Spielberg, xx Casey Wasserman and xx Jeffrey Katzenberg.
“If it was me, Steve, making the rules for the on-body cameras, it would be: Every time you get out of the car you turn the camera on all the time,” Soboroff added. “And every time you get into the car you turn the camera off all the time.”
Soboroff said guidelines about the operating procedures need to be established to ensure the equipment isn’t used simply to document one side of the story.
“These could be abused. Officers could turn them on and off,” he said. “And so that’s why the rules have to be consistent.”
Soboroff said he thinks the new cameras will be helpful to both the law enforcement community and to watchdog groups concerned about police harassment including the public, the ACLU, the Police Protective League, and the police chief. Most of all, he said, he hopes the new technology will save the city money in attorney’s fees and departmental time.
“My hope is that it’s going to save so much money and be so transformative that the additional funding that’s need so that every officer that’s out in the field has one all the time — which would be another couple million dollars — will just be so obvious that the city budget just puts it in. I think it’s going to save $20, $30 million dollars a year.” Soboroff said.