On 22 June 2016, the Los Angeles City Council laid down its final approval for plans to outfit the city’s police department with body cameras. Of the course of five years and at the cost of 57.6 million USD, thousands of body cameras will be purchased for use by police officers as part of a larger initiative to improve police accountability in the wake of outcry over excessive use of force by police across the United States, particularly against African Americans. While this outcry has increased tensions between residents and police across the nation, sometimes erupting into riots, the Los Angeles city government is attempting to lessen these tensions by outfitting their police force with body cameras that will record officers in action, and allow their actions to be reviewed in the wake of a serious problem
Once this proposal has been fully brought into being, the LAPD will be the single largest law enforcement agency to use cameras on a scale this widespread. Over 7,000 devices will be distributed among officers, with a good bit of controversy surrounding the process by which the plan was approved. While the initiative was backed by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the appointees he placed on the Police Commission, concerns among the city’s lawmakers stalled the legislation for months. While the effort has finally come to fruition, concerns remain about the effectiveness of the program as well as the long term impact of the laws surrounding the body cameras.
Still, the bill was not without its problems. A number of technology companies that were competing for the lucrative contract have openly complained that they were left out of the selection process without just cause. The search for the company that would provide these seven thousand specialized cameras was conducted by the relatively small Kern County Sheriff’s Department.
The LAPD is has stated that implementing this program will take time; their earliest estimation for when the full 7,000 body cameras will be outfitted with officers is late 2017, with most projections indicating that it will taken even longer than that.
While the effort is intended to improve police accountability and build trust between communities and their police, some do not think the legislation is going far enough, while others are adamant that it goes too far. Because the footage gathered by the cameras will not be publicly released without a court order, many people do not believe the cameras will be as effective as City Hall has been touting it as.