LOS ANGELES— On Tuesday, October 28, the Los Angeles Police Department received approval to record and store aerial footage of protests and other large gatherings from its helicopters. The department said that this would expand its “operational readiness and capacity.”
The approval was given with an unanimous Police Commission vote to accept a donation of $2,150 worth of recording equipment from the Los Angeles Police Foundation. The Los Angeles Police Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit philanthropic entity that aims to provide critical resources and support to the LAPD. It is not budgeted for or prioritized by the City of Los Angeles.
10 LAPD helicopters are equipped with technology that allows for video transmission, however, video cannot be recorded or stored through it. The new equipment would do so with two recorders, two mobile hard drives and two video encoders.
The development comes amid nationwide protests that emerged after the death of George Floyd in May. The protests demanded racial equality and an end to police brutality. Though, there were incidents of violence and looting.
Aerial documentation of protests may assist in examining police tactics, how crowds dispersed and where tensions escalated.
Dr. Melina Abdullah, Professor at CSULA and co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, denounced it as unconstitutional government surveillance to the L.A. Times.
“This is the height of state repression and surveillance. It’s criminalizing our right to protest,” said Abdullah. Additionally, Abdullah questioned whether this may be used to criminalize individuals.
When asked about concerns of privacy, Deputy Chief Peter Zarcone, head of the LAPD’s counterterrorism and special operations bureau, stated that it was the LAPD’s specific intention to use the equipment to record protests.