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LAPD asking for 2,600 more body cameras to outfit all cops

The cameras would go to some officers who work administrative jobs but might have occasional field duties


An LAPD officer wears a Taser Axon on-body camera during a press conference last December.

Photo/Los Angeles Times

By Josh Cain
Daily News, Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department is asking for tens of millions of dollars to buy more body-worn cameras so that all of its sworn officers, including those usually assigned to desk jobs and detective work, can be outfitted with the devices.

LAPD is about 2,645 cameras short of being able to assign a camera to every uniformed officer without having to track them down and share them, Deputy Chief John McMahon told police commissioners on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Buying that number of cameras, as well as thousands of cellphones that pair with the devices, would cost nearly $25 million over the next six years, according to an LAPD report.

Sometime in the last few years, McMahon said, LAPD Chief Michel Moore directed the department to outfit every officer with a camera after it became clear there were officers taking on occasional field duties who didn’t have them.

Those officers included some working administrative jobs who might also work overtime assignments at large events, like providing traffic control at football games or awards shows.

He said Moore’s order meant every single officer who spends time in the field must be equipped with a camera.

“The moment they get this device and are deployed, they are now required to follow our policies and procedures,” McMahon said. “We’ve been scrambling to make this happen. This will really make sure it’s not a problem.”

Assistant Chief Robert Arcos told the commission the added cameras would mean that, in addition to detectives and administrative staffers who don’t have them, LAPD would also be able to outfit its internal-affairs investigators and even reserve officers.

[READ: How to buy body-worn cameras (eBook)]

LAPD has enough cameras now to outfit around 7,000 patrol officers, who are required to wear them while out in public and must turn them on when they make stops or arrests.

While commanders said Tuesday the problem was identified years ago, a busy spring and summer, in which the entire department at times was ordered into patrol duties to respond to back-to-back crises, further exposed a lapse in camera coverage.

First, it was the COVID-19 pandemic: Moore ordered more frequent patrols amid citywide lockdown orders, but doing so meant hundreds of detectives and officers in administrative jobs had to jump back into cruisers.

Next came the citywide protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd during a police stop in Minneapolis. LAPD ordered more officers into the streets to respond.

In one violent showdown between protesters and police in the Fairfax District that’s now the subject of a lawsuit, no cameras were rolling when one protester was hit in the face with a foam projectile, LAPD officials said.

Abigail Rodas, one of several named plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed by Black Lives Matter L.A. and other civil rights organizations, said she was leaving the May 30 protest at Beverly Boulevard and Edinburgh Avenue when she was hit in the face with the projectile, briefly knocking her unconscious.

According to the lawsuit, the projectile broke Rodas’ jaw, which had to be fastened together with a steel plate: For at least weeks, she couldn’t open her mouth properly and had difficulty eating solid foods.

Footage LAPD released of the incident in September does not show Rodas. Instead, LAPD released footage of officers walking far behind the line of police closest to the protesters.

The incident is still under investigation.

LAPD officials have said there are numerous similar examples of uses of force against protesters this summer that also were not captured on camera: Either officers didn’t have cameras, or they didn’t turn them on as required.

McMahon said a lack of cameras presented a problem for internal investigators trying to piece together what happened.

“The first thing we go to is the (body-worn camera footage),” McMahon said in an interview with the Southern California News Group. “There were incidents and issues that needed to be reviewed from some of these protests that when we went to go look at their body-worn camera(s) … they were never issued one.”

The decision on whether the extra cameras will be purchased is up to the City Council.

©2020 the Daily News (Los Angeles)