Four Los Angeles city lawmakers voiced alarm Monday over the plan to outfit police officers with body-worn video cameras, saying they were taken aback by the number of people who may be needed to staff the initiative.
In a memo to the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, city policy analysts said the Los Angeles Police Department may request an additional 122 positions next year, all but four of them sworn, to work in the department’s growing camera operation.
Those employees would assist the LAPD as it works to assign 7,000 body cameras to officers by the end of next year.
Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who represents the west San Fernando Valley, said he experienced “sticker shock” after reading the memo. And Councilman Mike Bonin warned he would need to hear from Police Chief Charlie Beck before casting a final vote later this week on a proposed contract to purchase thousands of body cameras.
“It’s too big a leap for me to make without knowing a little bit more on how the chief intends to do this,” Bonin said.
Councilmen Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian expressed similar concerns.
The council is set to vote Wednesday on a $31.2-million agreement with Taser International to purchase 6,140 body cameras -- plus replacements, upgrades and video storage -- and 4,400 Tasers.
The entire body camera initiative is expected to cost $57.6 million over five years, including support staff and the purchase of cellphones to support the devices.
LAPD officials said the additional officers will be needed for such tasks as training and poring over footage of use-of-force incidents, officer-involved shootings and police pursuits.
In an interview with The Times, Beck said it would be “imprudent and irresponsible” to collect the body camera video and not review evidence that could be used in criminal cases or internal investigations. The LAPD, he added, should serve as an example to the rest of the country on police accountability.
“Everything comes with a cost,” Beck said. “I think the benefit of body-worn video exceeds the personnel resources that it will take to manage it.”
Beck said he hopes to avoid pulling officers from patrol duties to fill the department’s new video unit. The chief said he would rather hire more officers, use existing officers who aren’t able to work patrol assignments and, in some cases, tap civilian employees.
“I think the city should fund additional positions to move forward … but if the city can’t afford to fund that, if the council can’t afford to fund that, then I will find a way,” he added.
LAPD Chief Information Officer Maggie Goodrich said the department won’t know for months exactly how many positions will be needed. Budget officials say it would cost between $10 million and $12 million to cover the 122 positions.
Bonin, who represents coastal neighborhoods, said he is a strong supporter of the camera initiative, which is backed by Mayor Eric Garcetti. But he voiced dismay at the idea of one or two officers in the LAPD’s Pacific Division working full-time on “reviewing tapes.”
“My constituents can’t get non-emergency calls picked up” by the LAPD, he said. "The 122 positions really, really scares me, and I’m afraid this [camera contract] locks us into that.”