Police officers in one Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) patrol division tampered with recording equipment intended to monitor them in the field by removing antennas attached to cameras in patrol cars, according to an internal investigation.
"On an issue like this, we need to be brought in right away," Steve Soboroff, president of the Police Comission that oversees the LAPD, told the LA Times. "This equipment is for the protection of the public and of the officers. To have people who don't like the rules to take it upon themselves to do something like this is very troubling."
LAPD officers wear voice recorders on their belts, which are switched on automatically when the car's lights and sirens activate. The antennas, which extend the range of the voice recorders, are attached to video cameras in patrol cars that also turn on automatically. The cameras and recorders can also be turned on manually. Removing the antennas may have reduced the range of the voice recorders by as much as a third.
The LAPD learned of the problem last summer, but did not inform the Commission until months later. Since then, the department instituted new rules for antenna checks and only one additional antenna has gone missing.
Some police officers don't appreciate being constantly monitored
Internal police monitoring is increasingly common, and is supported by both law enforcement and public advocacy groups. The LAPD's sabotage shows that some police officers don't always appreciate being constantly monitored, however, even though the practice is supposed to prevent damage caused by one-sided citizen recordings in addition to halting police misconduct. We are likely to hear more stories about police tampering with cameras and recorders as the practice becomes widespread.