The Los Angeles Times reported that the city of L.A. plans to outfit 700 to 800 police officers with on-body cameras. Mayor Eric Garcetti made the announcement during a news conference on Wednesday, stating that they're "a great step forward" while acknowledging that the cameras aren't the ideal answer to becoming more transparent.
"The trust between a community and its police department can be eroded in a single moment," Garcetti told the LA Times. "Trust is built on transparency."
News of the cameras arrives after conflicting reports were provided to law officials during the shooting incident of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August 2014. The shooting took place in Ferguson, Missouri, and forced law agencies across the nation to take a better look at how incidents such as the Brown shooting can be avoided.
Since the shooting, the president of the Police Commission, Steve Soboroff, has been collecting private donations to purchase the first batch of on-body cameras. More than 24 individuals – including Steven Spielberg and Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick – have contributed $1.35 million. The nonprofit Police Foundation also contributed an additional $250,000.
According to reports, the first 700 to 800 Axon Flex cameras will cost the city around $1.6 million. These will be provided by Taser International Inc. and will be worn by officers sometime in Q1 2015. However, they must first be approved by the LAPD's civilian oversight board. Los Angeles plans to purchase 6,300 additional cameras by July 2016, which is expected to cost a whopping $10 million. To help cut that cost down to half, the city will apply for federal funds.
Once installed, will these cameras be on all the time? During the press conference, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck indicated they wouldn't be on throughout the officer's shift. Beck provided a few examples, saying that officers would use a camera when a suspect is in custody. In sexual abuse situations, the camera would be off. The city plans to determine proper use of these devices sometime in Q1 2015.
"No big city department has done this," Beck said. "Officers will have tremendously powerful evidence and the ability to collect it. We are starting a journey that will go on for decades."