Los Angeles Police Testing On-Body Cameras—Hooray!


Body Camera

Yesterday, Reason 24/7 noted the Los Angeles Times article reporting on that city's police department's trial deployment of body-worn cameras on 30 foot patrol officers. Requiring police officers is a great idea. As the LA Times noted officers have already reported good results:

LAPD Officer Jesus Toris said people notice the cameras.

"People have a different reaction when you approach them, so it does help," he said.

Supporters of the on-body cameras said the goal is to eventually have them for the entire Los Angeles force, ultimately saving the city millions in lawsuits.

"You wind up getting sued or wind up getting a complaint or something like that, it could have been alleviated had we had audio and video," LAPD Sgt. James Sterling said.

Police Chief Charlie Beck has said the addition of on-body cameras will be a helpful investigative and accountability tool, as well as a less expensive option than in-car video…

"The nice thing about this is there's a real consensus among some of the biggest critics of the department and the officers and the union that they all want this transparency," said [LA mayor Eric] Garcetti. "Everybody's convinced, look, this is going to show how bad the officers are or how good they are."

One quibble—the Times reports that the police intend to retain the video for five years. That is way too long.  I outlined more reasonable policies in my article, "Watched Cops Are Polite Cops":

…police officers should be subject to stiff disciplinary sanctions if they fail to turn their cameras on each time they interact with the public. In addition, items obtained during an unrecorded encounter should be deemed a violation of the subject's Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure and excluded as evidence, unless there were extenuating circumstances, such as a broken camera. Similarly, failure to record an incident for which a patrolman is accused of misconduct should create a presumption against that officer.

Officer-worn video cameras do have the potential to violate the privacy of citizens. After all, the police frequently deal with people who are having one of the worst days of their lives. Police often enter people's houses to investigate disturbances and disputes. In such cases, video of someone's metaphorical (or literal) dirty laundry is nobody else's business.

Consequently, Stanley argues that strong rules regarding the retention, use, and disclosure of videos from police-worn cameras must be established and enforced. For example, videos should be retained for no more than 30 to 60 days, unless flagged. Of course, if the video contains evidence of a crime it should be retained just as any other evidence would be. Flagging would also occur for any incident involving force or that produces a citizen complaint. With the appropriate privacy protections in place, very little of police-recorded video would ever be retained or viewed.

Body-worn cameras should soon become standard equipment for all police officers.

NEXT: Matthew Feeney Discusses Guns on RT at 4pm ET

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. If they can beat a homeless guy to death on camera, then I don’t think these body cameras will make a difference.

    1. Maybe it’s not too late to return the cameras for a full refund.

    2. There are tons of interactions where camera footage would make a difference. If not so, why bother to confiscate phones to delete or “lose” footage in the first place?

      I am still waiting for the first cop to get busted trying to delete footage that has been automatically uploaded to some cloud storage. Hasn’t happened yet but is inevitable.

      1. There’ll be interesting cases, like trying to get a search warrant for cloud data that is on a server in another state-or country.

        1. Or planet. Or dimension. Or somebody else’s cyber brain who has no knowledge of it.

        2. Yes. Real progress is going to come from private individuals recording stuff rather than mandatory cop cameras, of course.

  2. It will be interesting when Google glass gets mainstreamed: you may have a case where both sides of the arrest have video. That would be fun.

    1. So the question will be, from which point of view do you want to play the beatings this time?

    2. I’m sure cops would learn to smash the Google Glass on the victim, I mean, perp’s, face first.

      1. He was making a furtive motion towards his sweatband!

      2. I don’t think something like Google Glass can do anything but improve the situation.

  3. …unless there were extenuating circumstances, such as a broken camera.

    First time the po-po will be happy their equipment is provided by the lowest bidder.

  4. I had the same thoughts as sarcasmic. Until the general population has had enough of this behavior, cameras won’t make much of a difference.
    The People will make excuses and agree with the brutality.

  5. Here’s an example (warning: death)

    Police released the video footage today. The prosecuting attorney in neighboring Bonner County reviewed an Idaho State Police investigation into the Aug. 25, 2013, shooting and concluded that Johnston, a 35-year-old Dalton Gardens resident, appeared intent on “suicide by cop” and that no charges should be filed against Mortensen.

    “I’m worried about him cutting himself,” Woods [deceased’s friend] told Mortensen before the shooting.

    Well, he won’t be cutting himself now, that’s for sure.

  6. Here’s an incident from two weeks ago in my home county in south Georgia:…..47681.html

    Here’s the unedited video on youtube:

  7. Surprisingly, no one here is happy about this.
    When Bailey writes “Hooray,” is he just being a naive ‘tard?

    1. I am tentatively positive about this. I think it is a good step in the right direction, and the few studies I’ve read about are very promising. The whole Kelly Thomas farce and then the cops who shot up the two vehicles last year out of zeal for being the one to kill Christopher Dorner make me think the cameras will only document how far off the deep end the population has become.

    2. R: Be kind. In my earlier reporting I noted: …a 12-month study by Cambridge University researchers revealed that when the city of Rialto, California, required its cops to wear cameras, the number of complaints filed against officers fell by 88 percent and the use of force by officers dropped by almost 60 percent. Watched cops are polite cops.

      1. Ron, please don’t feed the trolls.

      2. R: Be kind.

        R: I was being kind, albeit with the admittedly lame rhetorical device known as sarcasm. Truthfully, I’m astonished at how people at this supposedly libertarian site are contemptuous of this latest development. The cynical nihilism here is oppressive. I want a refund.

  8. A watched cop never boils?

  9. Kelly Thomas is proof that video evidence of police malfeasance can be effectively played during a trial… right before the acquittal.

    1. Yes, but it is nihilistic to think that more coverage, especially done by private citizens, will do anything but improve things.

      1. I’m not ready to say it hasn’t improved things, but from what I’ve seen so far, all it’s done is show us how boldly the police industrial complex will lie about their actions.

        Us: That man was unarmed, lying prostrate upon the ground, and you stood over him, and shot him four times in the back. It’s right there on the fucking video!

        Police Industrial Compex: Yeah, it looks like that on the video, but the situation was more complex than that once you consider the totality of circumstances and something something furtive movements.

  10. OK, so this is a trial. Out here in the real world, when we trial new gear, we have standards for success/failure.

    What are the standards for this trial?

    1. 100% cop acquittal. Anything less, the system is a total failure and should be scrapped.

  11. Thomas Anthony Guerriero, the CEO of Oxford City (Stock Symbol:OXFC) stated, “This is a true sign of the times. What an advancement.” Posted By: The Office of Thomas Anthony Guerriero ( Distributed By: Sacora McNair Administrative Director To Thomas Guerriero (

  12. There’s a lot that video game creators can learn from this. And it should make a hell of a youtube channel. ‘Cop Fails Compilation’.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.