Crime & Justice

LAPD audit finds overall strong compliance with body, dash cams

File: 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.
File: 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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LAPD officers are by and large following the rules regarding their body and dashboard cameras, although compliance lags a bit in some areas, according to an internal audit to be presented at  Tuesday’s Board of Police Commissioners meeting. 

The audit measured whether officers are complying with a range of requirements, including making sure the equipment is working at the beginning of a shift, uploading videos at the end of a shift and turning the cameras on prior to starting any enforcement action.

The audit found compliance topped 90 percent in three of the department's four geographic bureaus (South, Central and Valley).  But the report found compliance dropped to 77 percent in the West Bureau.

One officer who helped conduct the audit said that West Bureau's performance is actually up to par, because it hasn't had dashboard cameras for as long as the other geographic areas.

"We've witnessed a similar growth curve in compliance rates in the other bureaus," said Officer Michael Hackman of the evaluation and administration section of the LAPD's Office of Operations.

He noted that West Bureau has also adopted "additional compliance criteria," including a requirement that officers shoot a test video before each shift.

He predicted that as West Bureau officers gain familiarity with the system, they "will have a stronger compliance rate going forward."

Still, the results of the audit reveal "a mixed bag," said Cal State Fullerton criminologist Phillip Kopp, who has studied the deployment of body cameras across the country. "Younger officers are all for the technology. Older ones who are further along in their career are resistant."

The technology is so new that even officers comfortable with technology are still getting accustomed to using it, he said. 

Police officers have a lot to think about when they get out of their patrol car to answer a radio call, so it will take time for them to make turning on their camera a habit, said Kopp.

The longer they have them, the more they are going to remember to turn them on," he said.

Neither Kopp nor the audit suggested officers were purposely leaving cameras off so they would not be caught engaging in wrongdoing. 

Auditors examined five recent use of force incidents (not including shootings) in each of the four bureaus to determine how officers were using their cameras. Officers in the West Bureau did best here, but compliance with regulations was somewhat lower in the Central and Valley Bureaus.

The LAPD has posted stickers in cars to remind officers to turn their cameras on. The department so far has equipped about half of its 7,000 street cops with cameras. It hopes to have all of them equipped by early next year.