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LAPD set to install video cameras in patrol cars

April 20, 2010 |  1:26 pm

After many missteps and technical glitches, the Los Angeles Police Department will soon launch a long-awaited plan to install video cameras in patrol cars, a department official said Tuesday.

Officers in the LAPD's Southeast Division are scheduled to use the windshield-mounted cameras for the first time Sunday, Chief Technology Officer Maggie Goodrich said in a presentation to the Los Angeles Police Commission.

Goodrich said the cameras performed well during recent tests by a small group of officers. If the planned roll-out in the Southeast Division goes smoothly, it would be extended to the nearby 77th Street Division late next month and eventually to the remaining divisions in the department's South Bureau, she said.

City lawmakers to date have earmarked about $5 million for the project -- sufficient funds to outfit only one of the department's four bureaus. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and several city council members have voiced strong support for the cameras, but it remains to be seen whether the city, which is struggling to resolve a mammoth budget shortfall, will allot enough money in coming years to keep the camera project alive.

Calls for putting cameras in patrol cars date back nearly two decades. Over the years, several pilot programs fizzled amid budget constraints and uneven political support. In recent years the idea gained new momentum as department officials and commission members looked to deal with long-standing claims that officers unfairly and disproportionately target minorities during traffic and pedestrian stops.

The cameras, which will capture video and audio of such encounters, are viewed as a vital tool for fulfilling a court order to guard against such racial profiling, as well as for protecting cops against bogus claims of abuse made by people during stops.

-- Joel Rubin at LAPD headquarters