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Battle Lines Forming Over Public Access to Videos from LAPD Body Cams

February 05, 2015  | 

The Los Angeles Police Department is about to outfit every officer with a body camera that will record their interactions with the public. Officials say the 7,000 cameras will help bring clarity to controversial encounters, guard against officer misconduct and clear cops accused of wrongdoing. However, these recordings are unlikely to be made public. And in this era of YouTube, that doesn't sit well with some residents.

Although the LAPD's policy has yet to be finalized, Chief Charlie Beck said the department doesn't intend, in general, to release the recordings unless required by a criminal or civil court proceeding. The LAPD considers the recordings evidence, he said, investigative records exempt from public release under California's public records law.

At two recent community meetings on the body camera issue, police commissioners and top brass heard from residents who questioned why the public would not get to see the footage. Many said that by withholding the recordings from the public, the department would undermine the transparency and officer accountability touted by proponents, the Los Angeles Times reports.

"If there's going to be video footage," Topanga resident Julie Levine told the Police Commission, "that footage should be available to both sides, so we can have an equal playing field."

The audience clapped.

However, experts say there are legitimate privacy concerns — such as when officers enter someone's home or when minors are recorded — police must take into account.

At the public meeting in Canoga Park, Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said he believed it was possible to strike the right balance and protect the rights of people on both sides of the camera.

"This is not for YouTube. This is not for TMZ," he said. "This is for maintaining the city's safety. This is for protecting people's constitutional rights and their rights to privacy."

Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

ftrnr @ 2/6/2015 3:55 AM

I think every person in California should have to wear a camera to work every day, and all those videos should be available to the public. (California as a test site, expand it to nationwide if successful) Doctors kill more people every year than the police, so they should certainly have cameras. With patient privacy concerns, the Doctor's office should have to pay someone not in their practice (to protect the integrity of the videos) to redact the videos, and should have to pay for their storage, they have budgets, right? Some clerks, cashiers, and tellers there are rude, they should wear them so if I want to file a civil case against the business I have evidence. Gosh, taxi and bus drivers often drive rudely, they need cameras. Teachers, they have our kids all day, we should certainly be able to see video of every minute of their lives in school. This is all ridiculous, if there is a crime the video is evidence and should be seen, if not it shouldn't be used to pick them apart.

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