Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled plans today to outfit the LAPD with 7,000 body cameras, making L.A. the first major city to take that step.
But before the cameras hit the streets, the department has to come up with a policy on when and how they will be used. And that could be tricky. The L.A. Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers, is broadly supportive of body cameras. But they want to make sure that officers can review the videos before writing up their reports.
Not so fast, says the ACLU.
“That would be a ridiculous policy,” argues Peter Bibring, an ACLU attorney.
Bibring argues that allowing officers to review the videos beforehand could taint their recollections, or make it easier to lie.
“They're less likely to lie if they don't know what the video caught and what it didn't,” Bibring says. “This is enormously important. It's the difference between this being a tool to promote accountability and this being a tool to assist in cover-ups.”
The LAPPL, for its part, pointed to a 2013 opinion piece, in which the union warned about a potential “gotcha mentality” in internal affairs reviews.
“We believe that our officers have not only a duty to be accurate, but a right to be accurate,” the union argued. “To that end, the review of video and/or audio evidence before writing reports, testifying, or submitting to interviews [is] not only important, but vital to that goal.”
It'll be up to the Police Commission to sort this out, among other issues.