Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Footage from Los Angeles Police car dashboard cameras will be reviewed regularly by an independent watchdog, and officers will be required to turn on the recording devices during stops under new policies detailed in an Office of the Inspector General report.

Tampering with the camera systems will be defined as misconduct under the policies agreed to by Los Angeles Inspector General Alexander Bustamante and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Bustamante examined the department’s in-car camera program and found that it “appears to work well in providing context and detail about many LAPD stops and detentions, particularly when combined with the officers’ daily logs.”

But in some cases the footage was incomplete because the action occurred off-camera, the audio was not recorded or there was a delay in turning on the camera, according the OIG’s review.

These issues “inhibited or prevented a full evaluation of what occurred during the stop,” and they usually happened “during pedestrian stops, which tend to be more fluid than vehicle stops, and where the basis may be less straightforward, particularly when based on suspicion of criminal activity rather than an observed traffic violation,” the report said.

To remedy incomplete video footage, new policies call for officers to keep a log explaining the reason for the stop and other activities as a back-up measure.

The report said that department officials and the OIG both agreed that without full documentation, “it may be difficult in some cases to determine or verify the basis for the stop, how the subject was approached and the detention initiated, or whether and on what basis any post-stop actions occurred,” according to the report.

The OIG’s regular “systematic” reviews of the footage under the new policy departs from the police department’s practice of examining only the recordings of critical incidents such as a police shooting.

The reviews could be used to improve training and make sure officers follow department policy and “constitutional and legal standards,” according the report.

The OIG’s review of the LAPD’s dashboard camera system comes as the department is expanding its dashboard camera program — currently limited to the South Bureau — to its Central Bureau.

It also comes as 860 body cameras are expected to begin shipping to the LAPD starting next week, even though a policy for body cameras have yet to be developed.

Bustamante noted that he “has also worked collaboratively with the department to incorporate the lessons learned” from the in-car digital camera review “to the draft policy for the use of on-body cameras across the department.”

—City News Service

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