Crime & Justice

LAPD announces body camera rollout for patrol officers

Officer Guillermo Espinoza pushes a button to turn his lapel camera on and off. The cameras don't roll for the entire shift, only when an officer presses record.
Officer Guillermo Espinoza pushes a button to turn his lapel camera on and off. The cameras don't roll for the entire shift, only when an officer presses record.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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The Los Angeles Police Department announced Tuesday it is ready to deploy 700 body cameras on patrol officers in the Central, Mission and Newton neighborhoods of the city beginning in January.

Police brass and city officials said they plan to buy 7,000 body cameras in the next fiscal year so that every patrol officer in the city will be outfitted.

“The more facts and evidence that we have the more likely it is that we can get to the truth no matter what happens on the street,” said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.  

Garcetti said he expects all LAPD patrol officers to be equipped with body cameras by June of 2016.

The mayor said more than $1.55 million was raised to jump-start the body camera program for the initial rollout phase.  

No formal guidelines on how officers will use the body cameras have been set.  Police Chief Charlie Beck said camera policy will be vetted in public through the L.A. Police Commission before officers begin to use them.

Beck said the body cameras would not be on all the time. In general, he said, officers will be directed to record all public interactions.

“This is a huge step for law enforcement,” Beck said. “No other major city is even close to implementation.”

The city has also received another $1 million from the U.S. Department of Justice research arm, the National Institute of Justice, to study body cameras in Los Angeles.    

“With this program, L.A. will be a national leader in the use of these cameras,” Garcetti said in a statement. “While events in Ferguson and President Obama's call have brought this issue recent national attention, (our) administration has been moving forward on the use of on-body cameras for over one year. “

The Los Angeles Police Department began testing body cameras in January of last year. Thirty police officers from Central Bureau tested three different types of body cameras.

In November, the department decided to purchase equipment from Taser International.  The company makes a body camera called the Axon Flex that looks like a small pager and is designed to clip onto the front of an officer’s uniform shirt.

Police Commission President Steve Soboroff raised more than a million dollars from private donors to pay for the test cameras.       

This story has been updated.