LA Sheriff's Department Tests Out $600 Body Cameras

The six-month pilot program hopes to add transparency for public

LA County Sheriff’s Department officials have begun a pilot program testing out body cameras in the field, they announced this week.

The Lancaster, Temple, Carson and Century stations are using four prototypes of the cameras, some of which are attached to sunglasses or chest-mounted, over the next six months.

A total of 96 cameras have been distributed among volunteers at the stations, who plan to evaluate them on a weekly basis.

Lt. Chris Marks said the cameras will help add transparency for the public to see how the officers operate out on the streets. They are useful for audio recording even when video may be unclear, he added.

“Especially in rapidly evolving situations, you can immediately capture what’s going on,” Marks said.

While the officers are not required to tell people they interact with that they’re videotaping, officers said the cameras have already proved effective, including one “irate” woman who calmed down when realizing she was on camera.

In a Police Foundation study published in March 2013, a Cambridge University professor of experimental criminology researched the effects of body cameras on police use of force at the Rialto Police Department in San Bernardino County.

The study found a 50 percent reduction in total incidents involving use of force compared to control conditions, as well as a dramatic decline of citizen complaints.

But one difficulty will be sorting through the many hours of footage the cameras capture.

“We’re talking hundreds of thousands of hours of video,” said Chief Bobby Denham, project manager. “I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge.”

And the systems cost about $600 each. Right now, there’s no way to pay for the 2,000 the department would hope to order, Denham said.

People can express their thoughts on the use of body-worn cameras by taking the department's online survey here.

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