LAPD

LAPD Cops Sabotaged Equipment Installed to Monitor Them

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looking for a hero
Shay Snowden/flickr

Police officers generally insist that they are the biggest fans of being recorded. A PoliceOne explainer on how cops can beat a lawsuit that I've highlighted before stresses the important of having footage of an incident that may later be called into question. Video evidence, police instructor Richard Weinblatt wrote, "should actually be welcomed, as the majority of officers do what they are supposed to do and thus will be cleared by the video from any allegations of wrongdoing."

What does it say then that members of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) have reportedly tampered with audio recording equipment? Nearly half the recording antennas in one division, the Southeast, actually went missing. Ars Technica explains:

The antennas, which are mounted onto individual patrol cars, receive recorded audio captured from an officer's belt-worn transmitter. The transmitter is designed to capture an officer's voice and transmit the recording to the car itself for storage. The voice recorders are part of a video camera system that is mounted in a front-facing camera on the patrol car. Both elements are activated any time the car's emergency lights and sirens are turned on, but they can also be activated manually.

The Los Angeles Times reports that LAPD chief Charlie Beck found out about the issue last summer but chose not to try to track down the vandal cops. Instead, according to the Times, the department issued general warnings that cops should not "meddle" with the equipment. The Police Commission, an oversight body, blew the whistles on the apparent malfeasance this week, but Beck denied any wrongdoing, claiming that his failure to notify the Police Commission about the problem earlier was simply "unintentional."

The lack of interest in identifying the officers who effectively destroyed city equipment certainly contributes to the impression that police officers in the U.S. are not held responsible for wrongdoing. A recent Reason-Rupe poll found nearly half of respondents agreeing that cops weren't generally held accountable for their actions. The poll also found a whopping 88 percent of respondents supporting the recording of police officers in public.

Recording cops also makes informed skepticism and criticism of police actions more possible. Police in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for example, shot a homeless camper in an incident caught on a helmet cam. That footage helped spark protests in a city that has one of the deadliest police departments in the country.

That right is protected in many states—Illlinois' Supreme Court recently overturned the country's most draconian anti-recording law—but even in those places, police have been known to disregard the law and target those who legally record them anyway. Such an incident recently cost the City of Baltimore $250,000. The city didn't have to accept responsibility for the officers' actions, and the officers were not fired for breaking the law. Instead, as usual, they'll get more "training."

Read Ron Bailey's column about why watched cops make for polite cops here, and watch a Reason TV interview with an ex-cop who agrees below:

NEXT: Scott Shackford on Leland Yee's Less Sexy Protectionist Corruption

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  1. Police…

    Cops…

    Police Cops.

  2. It’s not destroying evidence if you destroy the evidence gathering tool, is it?

    1. It’s wrong for us peasants to tamper with government property, but it’s par for the course for the King’s Men to do so.

  3. but Beck denied any wrongdoing, claiming that his failure to notify the Police Commission about the problem earlier was simply “unintentional.”

    When was it exactly that “Hey, we’re just incompetent.” become a viable defense in the public sector? I hear it all the fucking time these days. It seems to be the go-to excuse at every level of government service and it seems that the media just never seems to latch on to the implicit admission that the people in positions of authority have expressed that they don’t really know how to do their fucking jobs.

    1. Because the media is statist to the core and to them, being incompetent is perfectly fine in a public employee/official. Probably also because most journalists are incompetent morons themselves, and see being incompetent as normal.

    2. Yeah, but they’re only incompetent because they don’t get paid enough…

    3. his failure to notify the Police Commission about the problem earlier was simply “unintentional.”

      The next question, of course, is never answered:

      “And you think that’s acceptable, do you?”

      I find this to be an excellent way to get people out of their excuse-making mode. Of course, that’s in the private sector, where things like accountability and getting fired still exist.

    4. but Beck denied any wrongdoing, claiming that his failure to notify the Police Commission about the problem earlier was simply “unintentional.”

      That’s OK, Beck. Our failure to fire your sorry ass until now was simply “unintentional.”

      YOU’RE FIRED!

    5. They weren’t trained to NOT damage them. I don’t see the trouble here. Did the officers get home safely?

  4. AND NOTHING ELSE HAPPENED

  5. The lack of interest in identifying the officers who effectively destroyed city equipment certainly contributes to the impression is part and parcel of the widespread national problem of that police officers in the U.S. are not being held responsible for wrongdoing.

    There, that’s better. The original sentence made it sound like this is all just a PR problem.

  6. Police officers generally insist that they are the biggest fans of being recorded.

    Wait, what? When did this happen?

    1. You probably missed it in the excitement between the arrival of the Titanic on its maiden voyage, the balancing of the budget and Obama’s firm rejection of the executive powers usurped by his predecessors.

      Oops, wrong universe. Forget what I said.

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