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LAPD expects to start deploying body cameras this summer

LAPD receives its first batch of body cameras and expects to start deploying them this summer

Los Angeles police officials said Tuesday that the department has received its first batch of body cameras and hopes to deploy the new technology this summer. 

Although the LAPD has not finalized its policy for the cameras, the department is moving forward with "quite a bit of infrastructure work" to prepare the divisions that will use them first, LAPD's chief information officer told the Police Commission on Tuesday.

Before the devices can be used, department officials must install the docking stations that will charge the cameras and upload their footage, Chief Information Officer Maggie Goodrich told commissioners. That installation also includes potential upgrades to power feeds and network connectivity at each of the divisions, she said.

Those efforts are scheduled to take two or three months to complete.

Goodrich said the first 860 cameras the department received -- purchased with about $1.5 million in private donations -- will be given to officers assigned to the Newton, Mission and Central Traffic divisions, along with some specialized units such as SWAT.

Newton officers will get the cameras first, probably sometime in early summer, Goodrich said. The remaining cameras are scheduled to be rolled out by fall.

The LAPD and the union that represents the rank-and-file officers are still negotiating the camera policy in a confidential process, Goodrich said Tuesday. Department officials and commissioners have said that no cameras will be used until that policy has been completed and approved by the Police Commission.

With an ambitious plan to put a body camera on every officer, the LAPD is poised to become the largest law enforcement agency in the country to use the technology on a wide scale. In December, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the city would purchase about 7,000 cameras for the LAPD's use.

Before then, private funds were being raised to pay for a much smaller number of cameras -- the 860 devices the LAPD received this week. 

After officers in the Central Bureau tested three different models, the department decided on the Taser Axon device. An LAPD report presented to the Police Commission on Tuesday described that model as "secure, reliable and easy to use."

Police use of body cameras has drawn significant attention in recent months amid a national conversation about police and community relations. Advocates say the cameras will help bring clarity to controversial officer-civilian encounters, guard against officer misconduct and help clear those falsely accused of wrongdoing.

But not everyone supports the LAPD’s use of the cameras.

At two community meetings held this year, some residents raised questions over citizen privacy and public access to the footage. The LAPD has said it does not plan on publicly releasing the recordings unless they are part of a criminal or civil court matter.

This month, an LAPD sergeant and officer wearing body cameras were among those who fatally shot a man in downtown’s skid row. Many activists have called on the department to release the footage of the encounter, which drew international attention.

The forthcoming deployment of the body cameras comes as the LAPD also expands its use of cameras in patrol cars. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the technology advancement represented a "total revolution in policing."

"It's not only a great tool for policing, it's a great tool for gathering evidence, but it's also a great tool for building trust," Beck told reporters. "We're on the leading edge."

Follow @katemather for more LAPD news.

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