L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Tuesday that the city would purchase 7,000 body cameras for police officers in an effort to increase transparency.
Body cameras for officers have become a major issue in the wake of the shooting of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer and the conflicting accounts of what happened.
At a news conference, Garcetti said the cameras "are not a panacea, but they are a critical part of the formula. They're a great step forward."
"The trust between a community and its police department can be eroded in a single moment," Garcetti said. "Trust is built on transparency."
Advocates say the cameras will be a valuable tool for the department. The ability to record audio and video of police encounters with the public, they say, could help guard against officer misconduct and clear cops falsely accused of wrongdoing.
Steve Soboroff, president of the Police Commission, has spent months raising private money to outfit officers with on-body cameras. He said the mayor’s plan would supplement the contract the LAPD was already negotiating with the camera vendor, eventually bringing more cameras to officers on the streets.
More than $1 million raised through private donations will help pay for the cameras, thus avoiding City Hall budget constraints.
Soboroff called the mayor’s plan a “very big deal,” saying the LAPD’s use of the cameras could set a precedent for law enforcement agencies nationwide.
“There are more and more advantages of having cameras than we’ve ever thought,” Soboroff said. “It’s music to the ears of the LAPD and law enforcement and the community.”
Earlier this year, the LAPD began a pilot program, testing different types of body cameras. Officers spent 90 days trying out camera equipment while department officials gathered input from the inspector general, the American Civil Liberties Union and other law enforcement agencies that have implemented the technology.