Just two weeks after New York ramped up efforts to outfit its police officers with body cameras, Los Angeles says it plans to put cameras on the vast majority of its police force. Today, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city has signed a contract to buy 800 Axon cameras made by Taser that will make their way into the field now, with an additional 6,200 that are being worked into next year's city budget. The city's police commission raised $1.5 million to buy that first batch, which Garcetti says will be used first in areas of the city that have "high police activity."
"Out on the street, things aren't always clear cut."
"Out on the street, things aren't always clear cut," Garcetti said in a statement. "These cameras will help law enforcement and the public alike find the truth — and truth is essential to the trust between the LAPD and the community, which has been a key factor in lowering crime to record lows."
The move shouldn't be a total surprise. As The Los Angeles Times notes, the LAPD began a three-month-long pilot program earlier this year to test cameras made by multiple manufacturers, with the intent to buy some 600 of the cameras once a model was chosen. The original plan called for officers to swap cameras with one another between shifts, whereas a larger pool of devices reduces the need for that.
Once viewed as a walking civil rights violation, body cameras have come to be viewed by many as an effective way of recording interactions between law enforcement and citizens. That's despite the recent deaths of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, separate incidents involving police that were caught on tape, yet resulted in no indictments for the officers involved. Yet the question remains of whether the technology might have resulted in a clearer version of what happened in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, about which witnesses have wildly varying opinions.
Los Angeles, New York, and Ferguson are not the only cities with police camera programs. Cities across the country are slated to get them as part of a $263 million federal funding plan that was announced at the beginning of this month, and that will distribute some 50,000 cameras to various departments. That's just a tiny portion of the more than 750,000 police officers across the country, though local departments could raise funding to buy the cameras outside of federal programs, just like what's happening in Los Angeles.