LAPD vehicle cameras create 'transparency' in officer interactions

LAPD patrol cars are parked outside of Staples Center on June 16, 2010 before Game 7 of the NBA Finals in downtown Los Angeles
LAPD patrol cars are parked outside of Staples Center on June 16, 2010 before Game 7 of the NBA Finals in downtown Los Angeles Collin Robinson/KPCC

Before the end of summer, 300 Los Angeles Police Department patrol cars will be equipped with video cameras to record interactions between officers and suspects, the mayor and police chief
announced today.

Several patrol cars in LAPD's Southeast Division have had the video cameras since May, as part of a pilot program to check for glitches.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Charlie Beck said patrol cars in the 77th Street Community Police Station will be equipped with cameras by Wednesday, and those in the Southwest and Harbor Divisions will get video cameras before the end of the summer.

"By installing this system in patrol cars, we'll have digital audio and video recordings of interactions with individuals who are stopped or arrested,'' Villaraigosa said. "This digital data will not only shine a light on apprehension procedures but would also protect our officers from frivolous
or unwarranted claims.''

Beck called the cameras "a mechanism for transparency, a mechanism for gathering evidence in criminal cases.''

"It builds public trust within the police department, it builds partnerships, and it shows the dangerous job -- the difficult job -- that the men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department do every day,'' Beck said.

The Southeast Division, which spans 10.2 square miles, serves the neighborhoods of Athens Park, Harbor Gateway, Jordan Downs, Nickerson Gardens, San Miguel and Watts.

The 77th Street Community Police Station, meanwhile, covers about 12 square miles in the Crenshaw District, Athens Park, Chesterfield Square, Gramercy Park, Hyde Park, Vermont Knolls, View Heights, Vermont Park and Morningside Park.

The City Council in 2005 approved a $5.47 million contract to install video cameras in the South Bureau, which includes the Southeast, Southwest and Harbor Divisions and the 77th Street Community Police Station.

Central Bureau is slated to follow. The cost of equipping the rest of LAPD's 1,600 patrol cars with the video cameras is estimated at about $20 million to $25 million.

KPCC's Frank Stoltze contributed audio to this report.

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