LOS ANGELES —Because there have been so many false accusations about police officers' conduct, the city plans to install 300 digital video cameras in the first 300 of its patrol cars.
Police Chief William J. Bratton will recommend making a contract with IBM Corp for the first phase of a program that will eventually have the cameras installed in all 1,600 patrol cars citywide.
The system of cameras and the storage of digital images could cost 20 million to 25 million dollars but an LAPD report said the equipment could save the department three million dollars a year in costs to investigate complaints against police officers.
The video cameras will not only protect officers from false accusations, but it will also hold officers accountable for their conduct. The president of the L.A. Police Protective League said that there are many times when citizens will claim they stopped for a signal and the officer will state the contrary. This system will be great in establishing the truth for both the officers and the community. It's a system that can protect both.
The cameras will also help the LAPD comply with a federal consent decree, requiring efforts to prevent racial profiling in traffic stops, because there will be a video and audio record of every stop that can be reviewed by supervisors. Officers will be fitted with wireless microphones that can pick up sound even when they leave the patrol car.
The LAPD decided to try installing in-car cameras shortly after the 1991 beating of Rodney King, which was caught by an amateur photographer with a video camera.
The first camera was installed by a Foothill division officer who used his own money. It was successful in capturing on video the arrest of five men in the gang rape of a woman in a vacant lot. The tape was used to help identify the men in court.
The cameras will be installed to hang down from the ceiling of the car near the rearview mirror and can pan to capture images to the side and rear of the car.
The vice president of the police division said that the cameras might not capture everything in an incident because the angel and scope of the shot might not provide the full picture.
The police commission is expected to vote on awarding the five million contract to IBM very soon. IBM is already used by the Beverly Hills Police Department and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. Both departments are satisfied with the system and the vendor.
The vice president of the police commission feels that installing digital video cameras is an important step for the public and the officers.