LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Tuesday a plan to equip 7,000 officers on the Los Angeles police force with on-body cameras by next summer, making the law enforcement agency the nation’s largest to make the move to date.
The plan was unveiled at a news conference where Garcetti said he was planning to put forward millions of dollars in next year’s budget for the cameras, and that the first wave of 700 cameras would roll out as early as January.
Los Angeles police commission President Steve Soboroff said he estimated the cameras would cost roughly $10 million for the first two to three years and would include technology and software from Arizona-based Taser International Inc.
The LAPD has received a $1 million National Institute of Justice grant given to study their use of body cameras on policing.
Garcetti also said Tuesday he would nominate Chief Charlie Beck for the President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
Referring to recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, Beck said, “What happens in the smallest town in these United States affects all of us.”
He added, “The entire nation waits to see what happens in LA” with these cameras.
The announcement follows a year of multiple tests of the body cameras on a small number of the Los Angeles Police Department’s 9,900 officers.
Nationally, officers in one of every six departments now patrol with tiny cameras on their chests, lapels or sunglasses and that number is growing.
And after an outcry over as the shooting of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama recommended spending $74 million to equip another 50,000 with them.
Garcetti said the city would be applying for part of those funds.
Beck said the cameras will not be officially in use until a policy has been devised with consultation from stakeholders and the public. It must be approved by the civilian oversight commission and City Council.
“Body cameras won’t solve every problem in policing. But having video of police officers’ interactions with the public will help hold officers’ accountable for misconduct, quickly exonerate officers who are wrongly accused, and help the public understand the powers we give police and how they use them,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California.
He said the most important part of the process would be setting the guidelines overseeing the new technology
Most civil libertarians support their expansion despite concerns about the development of policies governing their use and their impact on privacy.
To address concerns about transparency, Los Angeles Councilman Curren Price introduced a motion Tuesday asking the LAPD to report on the status of its program as well as a timeline for its rollout and details on how that would happen.
“This city-wide body camera program will help us increase public trust in our law enforcement, and we must ensure that it is rolled out in a way that prioritizes our neediest communities,” Price said in a statement.
Many law enforcement officials support cameras’ use and say they are effective. The police department in Rialto, California, found after a yearlong University of Cambridge study last year that the cameras led to an 89 percent drop in complaints against officers, possibly reining in misbehavior on the part of the public and officers as well as ultimately limiting department liability.
Even so, some rank-and-file officers worry about being constantly under watch, or that an errant comment may be used by a supervisor to derail their careers.