Photo courtesy TASER International.
Photo courtesy TASER International.

Some members of the Los Angeles Police Commission said Tuesday they want more opportunities to weigh in on policies being developed for the handling of footage from hundreds of body cameras officers will begin using later this year.

Several members of the panel complained they were pressured earlier this year into adopting an initial set of policies that were presented to the board only after department officials and the police officers’ union had already agreed to the terms.

“What we were presented with was a final policy that has already been agreed to and approved, and told that if we were to make changes to it, it would start the process all over again,” Commissioner Robert Saltzman said.

He said the existing process for adopting the policies “undermines the goal here of accountability and trust,” especially with police officials taking “a firm position” against releasing body camera footage to the public.

Commissioners Kathleen Kim and Paula Madison also said they prefer being consulted about the policies before LAPD officials come to an agreement with the officers’ union.

Madison said that if the panel will be “adjudicating” police use-of- force cases in the future, “I frankly would like to have some concept, some idea, about what the policies are long before I’m sitting in a board room voting for them.”

Kim said she was only given a few days to look over a finished document prior to being asked to approve the first policies.

“When the approval process is that constrained, then it limits the ability to have a dialogue over the policy,” taking away the “substance and meaning” behind the policy approval process, she said.

Kim said she hoped the Police Commission will be given more opportunities to give input on policies being created for some “outstanding issues.”

Critics of the initial body camera policies that were adopted by the commission earlier this year say they unfairly give police officers the advantage of viewing the video before giving testimony about alleged excessive force.

Department officials are continuing to create policies affecting what will be done about body camera footage. The first set of policies don’t address rules for when video footage can be released, with LAPD officials saying today the recordings would only be given to the public through a legal order.

Commission President Steve Soboroff, who pushed for adoption of the first set of policies, agreed today to form a subcommittee consisting of himself and Saltzman that will receive briefings from police department officials who are now engaged in talks with the police officers’ union on further rules.

Soboroff said, however, that he would not be willing to let the discussion over the policy delay the implementation of the body cameras.

Police officials said Tuesday that 260 of the 860 body cameras donated to the department will first be deployed at the Mission Division in July or August, followed by the Newton and Central divisions.

City leaders recently approved a budget that allocates half of the funding needed to purchase 7,000 additional cameras to outfit the entire department. Officials are applying for federal grants to pay for the other half of the camera purchase costs.

The LAPD’s in-car digital camera systems are also being expanded beyond just the South Bureau to other parts of the city, including the Westside and the San Fernando Valley.

— City News Service

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