LAPD officers are on patrol with body cameras starting today

The body cameras are here.

After nearly two years of fundraising, testing and crafting policy, Los Angeles police officers hit city streets Monday morning wearing the chest-mounted cameras.

The roll out marked a significant moment for the LAPD, pushing Los Angeles forward in becoming the largest U.S. city to use the devices on a widespread scale. The cameras distributed Monday are the first of more than 7,000 that will be purchased and deployed across the LAPD in the next several months.

Dozens of reporters huddled outside a San Fernando Valley police station in the pre-dawn hours Monday, waiting for officials to speak about the new technology. Inside, about two dozen officers watched one last demonstration about the devices before trying them on.

"This is a big moment for us," said Capt. Todd Chamberlain, who oversees the LAPD's Mission Division. "I think they realize that they're making history today."

Mission Division, which covers San Fernando Valley neighborhoods including Sylmar and Panorama City, was the first to get the cameras. Any uniformed officer assigned to the division will wear the devices, Chamberlain said.

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FOR THE RECORD

2:29 p.m.: An earlier version of this article referred to Sylmar and Panorama City as cities. They are Los Angeles neighborhoods.

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It's the first time the officers there will use cameras — although some LAPD patrol cars are equipped with cameras, that technology has not yet expanded to include Mission.

South L.A.'s Newton Division is scheduled to get its body cameras in about two weeks; specialized units including SWAT will get theirs by the end of the month. The city intends to purchase 7,000 additional cameras, the first of which are slated to be deployed by the end of the year.

Use of body cameras by officers has drawn significant attention in recent months amid a heated national debate about policing. 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.

However, concerns linger over the LAPD's planned use of the technology, particularly about who will get to see the videos from the cameras and when.

The LAPD policy -- approved by a 3-1 Police Commission vote in April -- allows officers to review images from the cameras before writing reports or giving statements to internal investigators. But the LAPD has said it does not plan on publicly releasing the recordings unless they are part of a criminal or civil court proceeding.

Critics, including the Southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said giving officers but not the public a chance to look at the images undermines the accountability that the cameras are intended to reinforce.

Follow @katemather for more LAPD news

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

8:40 a.m.: This update includes details of Monday's briefing and comments from the LAPD.

This post was originally published at 6:22 a.m.

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