Questions Raised Over Police Body Camera Video Usage

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — With Mayor Eric Garcetti’s announcement on Tuesday that Los Angeles Police Department officers would start wearing body cameras in 2015 comes questions on how the video would be used.

At the start of the year, Garcetti expects that 800 officers will have cameras, while outfitting the entire 7,000-officer force will take additional time and funding. The cameras would record everything an officer says and does.

“Cameras are not a panacea, but they are a critical part of the formula,” said Garcetti, who plans to include a request of $10 million for equipment in the city’s upcoming budget.

Peter Bibring of the American Civil Liberties Union told KCAL9’s Andrea Fujii on Tuesday night that the group supports equipping officers with the technology, but it has concerns.

“In order to make sure that these tools actually live up to their potential, we need to make sure that the right policies are in place,” Bibring said. “They should be recording any interaction with a civilian that’s initiated for investigative purposes.”

Bibring said there should be limits on how the video is used.

“Access video only for valid law-enforcement purposes, and that video isn’t shared or disseminated unnecessarily,” he said.

During a pilot program last January, dozens of officers tested the cameras. The LAPD said officers turned the cameras on during most interactions with the public, and officers could not alter or erase the video.

“Video will be used as evidence in court,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said. “It may be used in criminal proceedings and could be subpoenaed for civil proceedings.”

The Police Commission said it will work with the public to consider specific camera policies early next year. The ACLU met with LAPD officials twice during the pilot program and hopes to continue working with them.

During a yearlong trial run with body cameras, the Rialto Police Department experienced an 89 percent drop in complaints.

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