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More Police Agencies Considering Body, Dash Cameras

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Law enforcement agencies all over Southern California are looking to technology to help quell some of the controversy that inevitably erupts following an officer-involved shooting.

From Los Angeles, to Rialto, to Hawthorne, agencies believe cameras can offer transparency in future officer-involved shootings by capturing events on video as they unfold.

At Tuesday’s police commission, LAPD Inspector General Alexander Bustamante said an audit of the department’s 21 stations found cameras that were not working, placed in locations with little to no view of holding cells and that lacked “full coverage” of lobbies and other areas where the public has unrestricted access. The audit was prompted by two “critical” incidents – a case in which a man died while in custody at the Southwest Station last September and a shooting at the West Traffic Bureau that left the gunman dead and one officer injured.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the report was no surprise.

“It’s a good report, and it’s something we’ve known about,” Beck said.

Beck said that the department has asked for improvements to the cameras in the stations – and the addition of cameras worn by officers and mounted on cars – but funding has been the problem. The chief said that not only will the department fix those broken cameras and surveillance problems, but the department is also working on having its officers wear cop cams and outfitting police vehicles with dash cameras.

“Folks have to remember, we’re beginning to exit the greatest recession in our lifetime and there’s a cost to it … so as we emerge from that, we have a lot of work to do,” Beck said.

The city of Hawthorne is also considering supplying its police officers with body cameras, especially after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and the violence and unrest that has followed.

“The citizens of Hawthorne deserve something like this,” Mayor Chris Brown said to the Hawthorne City Council Tuesday.

Police officers in Rialto are already wearing cameras and have been the subject of one of those most shared images on social media since Brown’s death in Ferguson.

“Officers in Rialto, CA are now required to wear video cameras while on duty,” the image states, above Officer G. Aguirre, who appears to be adjusting the camera on his chest. “In one year, use of force has dropped 60% & complaints have dropped by 88%.”

Law enforcement officials like body cameras as a way to respond to allegations of police misconduct. The cameras provide video evidence which can be used to defend cities against civil lawsuits, or lead to criminal convictions against police officers who go too far.

“My union, my command staff, my police community and this chief support the use of cameras, we think it makes a better police department and we’re going to push forward, not only in the stations, not only in the cars, but on body and it takes a while to get there, especially in bad budget times,” Beck said.

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