Issue: Video Cameras

<i> Compiled by Iris Yokoi</i> / <i> Times community correspondent</i>

The president of the Police Commission and Chief Willie L. Williams have endorsed a pilot project that would equip a few patrol cars with video cameras, a move that would implement a Christopher Commission recommendation. What do you think of this idea?

* John Esaki: documentary filmmaker , Mid-City “I’ve seen footage on television where certain police departments have a camera mounted on the car and it provides a wide-angle shot; it focuses on the action taking place in front of the car . . . to record the procedure that’s being followed. I think that could be objective and useful. If one of the officers had to carry the camcorder, it would seem to me impractical. But also, as a person who works on documentaries, I know you can show reality in a number of different ways. The Rodney King case is a perfect example of the different ways people perceive a videotape. How people interpret or perceive the videotape is always in question. . . . And it would seem like if I were a police officer and working with that (video camera), how would that affect my attitude? Would it be an intrusion? Would I feel like I’m being watched? . . . It’d be interesting for the mayor to be recorded during his working hours to observe his efficiency. Where does it end? It sounds like a simple solution, but it’s never really that simple.”

* Rey M. Rodriguez: attorney , Chinatown “I guess in other jurisdictions, it’s worked out well. The more information you have, the better it is. But there’s always going to be concerns about how it is used and where the camera’s placed. The videotape could be edited; it could be misused. I would have to know what kinds of guidelines they are using. It might also be a violation of the Fourth Amendment--unlawful search and seizure. If you don’t know you’re being filmed, you might incriminate yourself. It would be good to know you’re being filmed. And when will they turn the camera on? Right as the officer leaves the car? If it’s used in cars with only one officer, it’d be good in terms of their safety.”

* Geneva Williams: homemaker , Elysian Park “I think it would be good insurance for the LAPD. I know everybody is negative about spending any money right now, but based on the last couple of years, I think it’s a good investment. Down the line, it will pay off. Living up here on this hill (near the Police Academy), I have had many friends who have been police officers, and my husband was a reserve officer during World War II. I trust the police officers to use their own discretion (when using the video cameras).”


* Jimi Walton: art gallery owner , Leimert Park “I think it’s a great idea because it puts both people on alert: The police have a visual record of what’s going on, and it also protects the person being stopped. Whenever you have that, it eliminates a lot of hearsay. We spend enough money in the courtroom on things that are nonsensical. This will be a saving not only in terms of money but in time and space and getting through the court system. My only concern is, using the tapes in the automobiles . . . there should be a way to account for every inch of that videotape. There should be some way that if you have, hypothetically, 500 feet of tape, it could be noted that 500 feet of tape was used in this car and the total (footage) is accounted for, because there is a concern that the tapes could be edited.”