08.27.14

Los Angeles Times: Amid outcry over police shootings, departments weighing cop cameras

Richard Serrano and Joel Rubin report on the benefits and costs of police body-cameras.

The Justice Department is weighing whether to provide funding to more police departments to buy body-worn cameras, which are usually placed on an officer's lapel, shoulder or cap. The Los Angeles Police Department is testing body cameras and New York this week announced plans to study the program too.

In Salt Lake City, for instance, an officer shot and killed a 20-year-old man two days after Brown was slain Aug. 9 in Ferguson. But in Utah, the officer had turned on his body camera. That video will probably play a key role in deciding whether the officer is disciplined, prosecuted or cleared.

In Rialto, officials say that complaints of police abuse plummeted after 120 uniformed officers were equipped with cameras in early 2012.

"Having a video record of events not only deters the use of excessive force, but it also helps dispute or demonstrate claims of police brutality," said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), who is leading an effort to provide Justice Department grants for body cameras nationwide.

In Los Angeles, about 30 officers who patrol skid row have been testing various body camera models with a goal of purchasing about 500 cameras.

Schiff said the cost of cameras would more than pay for itself because the videos would discourage false lawsuits against the police. "The savings can be quite dramatic, through improved community relations and decreased litigation," he said.

That may be the result in the Salt Lake City shooting.

"We're just waiting for the prosecutor to finish his investigation and then we'll release [the footage] as a public document," Police Chief Chris Burbank said in a phone interview Wednesday. "You will see a young man being shot through the eyes of a police officer.... These cameras are capturing good work by law enforcement. If we're doing something wrong, it will capture that too. But it is an advantage for all law enforcement. What the camera captures is a factual representation of what took place."

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By:  Richard Serrano and Joel Rubin
Source: Los Angeles Times