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LAPD officers to be equipped with lapel cameras by the summer

LAPD cops could soon test lapel body cameras.
Courtesy of NBC4
LAPD cops could soon test lapel body cameras.

The Los Angeles Police Department has secured funding for about 600 on-body cameras it hopes to deploy by the summer. 

The department raised about $1.3 million, which will cover the cost of the cameras — including maintenance, usage, storage and technology upgrades — for about 2.5 years. 

It took only 58 days to raise the funds.

"I thought it would take 9 months," Steve Soboroff, president of the L.A. Police Commission, told KPCC. 

The money came both from individual donors including Steven Speilberg, Casey Wasserman and Jeffrey Katzenberg as well as organizations like Occidental Petroleum and the Dodgers.

"On-body cameras and the continued addition of in-car cameras are going to be an absolute transformative thing for both sides of the camera from a law enforcement perspective," Soboroff said. "And I just can't wait. Because when you get a real record of what's happening it makes investigating a lot simpler. More importantly, I believe it's going to change behavior. I think when people know they're being recorded, their actions may be different. and the 'he said-she said, let me lawyer up and let me do this and do that' — I hope that those days get over quickly."

Several groups of officers are currently testing out three different cameras and noting which they like best, Soboroff said, and several companies are bidding to supply the products, including TASER and Coban Technologies.

At the same time, a set of stakeholders, including the ACLU, the Police Protective League, the police chief and the public are weighing in and compiling  the operating procedures for the new equipment. 

"If it was me, Steve making the rules for the on-body cameras, it would be: Every time you get out of the car you turn the camera on all the time," Soboroff added. "And every time you get into the car you turn the camera off all the time." 

Soboroff said there's a need to be clear about the operating procedures to ensure the equipment isn't used simply to document one side of the story.

"These could be abused. Officers could turn them on and off," he said. "And so that's why the rules have to be consistent."

Soboroff said he thinks the new cameras will be a boon to both the law enforcement community and to watchdog groups concerned about police harassment. Most of all, he said, he hopes the new technology will save the city money in attorney's fees and departmental time.

"My hope is that it's going to save so much money and be so transformative that the additional funding that's need so that every officer that's out in the field has one all the time -- which would be another couple million dollars -- will just be so obvious that the city budget just puts it in. I think it's going to save $20, $30 million dollars a year." Soboroff said. 

"If in their wisdom they decide that the city budget can't handle it," Soboroff said, "I'm just going to go out and raise the money again." 

Should police wear body cameras?