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$7M annual cost for LAPD body cameras

LAPD Officer Guillermo Espinoza wears a video camera on his lapel. Espinoza is one of 30 officers in the downtown area that tested the cameras. Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Placing body cameras on LAPD cops won’t come cheap. 

A spokeswoman for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday that the annual cost for the maintenance of approximately 7,000 cameras will be $7 million. 

Vicki Curry, who is with Garcetti's office, provided the number after the LAPD produced a report on how much the initial rollout would cost. The LAPD will officially present its findings to the commission this Tuesday.

While much of the current debate focuses on oversight and public access to police camera video, how this program gets funded is also a question.

The department estimates it will cost $868,428 per year for unlimited storage of its 860 cameras. These cameras are to be deployed in three of the LAPD’s 21 divisions, plus the elite Metro unit and SWAT. These divisions include Newton in South LA, Central in downtown, and Mission in the San Fernando Valley.

“I definitely think it’s worth it,” said Police Commissioner Robert Saltzman.

“I think the ability for us to evaluate both the officers' behavior and the behavior of the person the officer is dealing with is worth the money,” he said.

Thornier issues surrounding access to the video by the public are being discussed by a working group. Its findings will be sent to the chief, then the police commission for approval.

Curry said Los Angeles could pay for maintenance through a combination of federal grants and money from the general fund.

The $1.5 million cost to buy the initial 860 cameras was covered by private donations through the Los Angeles Police Foundation. Taser International is the contractor.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

The Sheriff's Department is also taking up the issue.

Body cameras are a major project for any law enforcement agency that decide to use them, said L.A. Sheriff Jim McDonnell. “The amount of video footage that’s captured in just a ten hour shift from any individual officer is staggering,” he told KPCC’s Larry Mantle on Airtalk.

The Sheriff has yet to commit to buying body cams for all of his deputies. It just finished a six month pilot project involving four of its 23 patrol stations, according to Nicole Nishida, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.