Body cameras for L.A. police: Not everybody trusts the new tech

Questions raised at South L.A. forum about the LAPD's push to outfit officers with body cameras

Dozens of residents who filled a South L.A. gymnasium Wednesday night expressed doubts over the Los Angeles Police Department's plan to equip its officers with body cameras, raising concerns over civilian privacy and public access to the footage.

Several people gathered at the Green Meadows Recreation Center also questioned whether officers would try to manipulate footage, citing the recent example of Southeast L.A. officers who tampered with voice-recording equipment in their patrol cars.

What does video from the new LAPD body camera look like? Check it out here

Others said that cameras would not fully address their concerns about the way officers interact with residents.

"Absence of real human change, what we're being given is technology change," one man said. "We need to concentrate on justice, not just cameras."

The meeting was the first of two public forums that the civilian Police Commission convened to gather community input on what policies the department should adopt for the cameras. The second meeting is scheduled for Thursday night in Canoga Park.

Last month, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the city would purchase 7,000 body cameras to equip all of its police officers, a significant expansion on the LAPD's year-long effort to purchase some 800 cameras with private donations.

The cameras are expected to roll out this year, though commission President Steve Soboroff stressed Wednesday that they would not be used until officers were properly trained and a policy was finalized.

Advocates say the cameras will be a valuable tool for the department. The ability to record interactions between police officers and civilians could help guard against officer misconduct and clear officers falsely accused of wrongdoing. 

"These cameras are designed and intended to build public trust," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told the crowd at Wednesday's public forum. "This is about accountability." 

Although many in the crowd were skeptical of the cameras -- "We don't want them," a man shouted from the audience -- others said they were hopeful the technology could provide some transparency for police-civilian interactions.

"This way it keeps you in check and it also keeps the officers in check," another man said. "You're going to be recorded on both ends."

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