LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said Tuesday that he has privately raised roughly half the $1 million he says is necessary to equip 1,500 Los Angeles Police Department officers with lapel cameras.
A week after taking the helm of the LAPD civilian oversight board, Soboroff said he has promises of $250,000 from media giant Casey Wasserman and an undisclosed sum from DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. Soboroff said he hopes the department will adopt the lapel cameras within a year.
“We don’t want to be a low-tech department in a high-tech world,” Soboroff said. “That technology saves lives and money.”
The effort to add on-body cameras is in addition to a longtime city goal of equipping the department’s 1,200 patrol cars with video recorders. Since the 1991 beating of Rodney King, the LAPD has worked to bring in-car cameras to its vehicles but has only managed to equip 300 cars with the technology.
Soboroff emphasized that his goal was to supplement, not hinder, already existing efforts to add cameras in cars. He said he’ll let professionals within the department work out the details of the technology, he but hoped that the lapel cameras would constantly be in use and shared by those on patrol.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander submitted a motion to the City Council directing the LAPD to work with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Taser International Inc. to start field-testing 25 on-body cameras and identify different styles that can be used.
Testing will likely start in a couple weeks, Englander said, and he has requested the LAPD report back on its findings to the commission and the city’s Public Safety Committee in 90 days. By then, Englander said, he and Soboroff aim to purchase a minimum of 500 cameras to start putting them in the field right away.
While in-car cameras capture video in front of and inside patrol cars, on-body cameras capture video elsewhere; for example, inside a home, which can be helpful on a domestic violence call, said Englander, who is a reserve LAPD officer.
“We’re spending tens of millions of dollars on lawsuits and everybody out there has a (cellphone) camera,” Englander said. “This is a great opportunity to set the record straight, to give us extra eyes and ears at a situation.”
Depending on the technology adopted, supervising officers at an incident could even tap into an officer’s personal camera, Englander said.
Police Chief Charlie Beck said the addition of lapel cameras are a helpful investigative and accountability tool, as well as a less expensive option than in-car video. That said, the department plans to begin phase two of its effort to rollout cameras to its vehicles soon. Beck said a plan will be before the commission in two weeks to add 400 to 500 more vehicle cameras.
The police union hasn’t taken a position on the adoption of lapel cameras but has strongly supported in-car cameras in the past.
The Rialto Police Department recently garnered headlines because of its participation in a University of Cambridge study examining the impact of the body-worn cameras on policing. The 12-month study found an 89 percent drop in complaints during the trial. And a June report by the LAPD, which examined officer complaints in 2011 and 2012 where the vehicle was equipped with an in-car camera, found that 92 percent of the complaints were exonerated or unfounded and the majority of those sustained were because the officer had failed to activate the in-car camera.
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