L.A. Police to Experiment With Use of Video Camera in Patrol Car


A patrol car-mounted video camera that could be used to record the behavior of suspects, or the behavior of police as they deal with suspects, will be field-tested by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Dave Phillips, marketing director of the CrimTech Corp. of Auburn Hills, Mich., the firm that developed the camera system, said Wednesday that he called police officials and proposed the test shortly after a man videotaped Los Angeles officers beating motorist Rodney G. King last month.

“We were interested in what (CrimTech) had to say,” said Police Cmdr. Larry Fetters, who will supervise the test. “The camera would provide documentation of what is happening. Clearly, it would document the behavior of the officer.”


“It’s one of the few pieces of equipment that’s liked by both the police and the ACLU,” Phillips said.

The American Civil Liberties Union has been one of the leading voices in the continuing protest over the March 3 beating of King, who was struck more than 50 times by police batons after a car chase in the San Fernando Valley. Four officers await trial on criminal charges in the beating.

The CrimTech camera system, which hit the market about a year ago, is being tested by about 50 law enforcement agencies in the United States and Canada, Phillips said. The largest sale thus far--at $5,500 per unit--is the 14 cameras purchased by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, he said.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Department in Michigan is using several of the CrimTech cameras, “and they work very well,” Sheriff’s Sgt. James Heiligenthal said. Videotapes of errant drivers have been used as evidence in court and have yet to be challenged, he added.

Phillips said he phoned the LAPD “right after the King incident” and “they said they were interested,” despite the fact that a video camera had led to a major controversy for the department.

Fetters--assistant to the department’s director of operations--said he met with CrimTech’s president, John Squicciarini, on Tuesday to discuss placement of a test camera in a patrol car officers use to track stolen vehicles.

“We’re interested, because this guy (Squicciarini) seems to be moving in the right direction,” Fetters said. “He’s looking at integrating all the electronic technology--the camera, communications equipment, maybe a laptop computer--that would fit in a patrol car.”

The CrimTech camera--about the size of a human fist--is mounted next to a patrol car’s rearview mirror, Phillips said. It can be activated manually by an officer, or automatically as the officer turns on the car’s red lights and siren.

The camera’s wide-angle lens provides a broad view through the windshield that can include both a suspect’s vehicle and people standing on either side of it.

“The camera would capture what the officer sees as he is making a (stop) . . . and the interaction between the officer and the suspect,” Fetters said. “Clearly, the camera would document the behavior of the officer . . . to his or her credit.”

Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates has stated repeatedly that the beating of King is an isolated incident that in no way reflects the behavior of most of the 8,300 officers in the department.

Critics have said the chief is responsible for the behavior of all of his officers and have called for his resignation.