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Internal LAPD reports show body camera misuse more widespread than chief alleges

Libor Jany, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

For weeks after the Mission Division scandal broke in late August, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore repeatedly framed the growing crisis as an isolated problem of rogue gang officers who flouted LAPD regulations by turning off their body-worn cameras at critical moments.

Moore said there was no evidence so far that other units were engaging in the more serious allegations facing Mission gang officers — who have been accused of theft, illegal stops and searches, and the use of Apple AirTags to track people, according to LAPD sources who requested anonymity to discuss internal matters.

But an internal department report found that the body camera issue is more widespread than the department is letting on publicly.

The confidential report by command staff from the 77th Street Division said that patrol officers from that division, as well as from the Hollenbeck and Hollywood divisions, were also in the habit of turning off their cameras in violation of department policy.

One possible explanation for these lapses, the report says, is a "real perception" that exists among many officers that they are "somehow excused" from turning on their cameras in time to capture encounters with the public, so long as they can articulate a clear reason for not doing so.

At the same time, some supervisors are under the impression that they are only required to review officers' body camera footage in a narrow set of situations, the report said.


"Anecdotally, when speaking with my supervisors including my Watch Commanders, they provided a few reasons why a 'deep review or investigation isn't customarily done," a division leader says in the report, which was obtained by The Times. "The overall belief by the Watch Commanders and supervisors is that aside from the requirement to review [body-worn and dashboard camera footage] for Personnel Complaints, Use of Force and Pursuit Investigations, the role of reviewing [body-worn and dashboard cameras] for Audits, Inspections, and Compliance Reviews is the responsibility of the Bureau Inspections Units or teams."

So-called quality service inspections of officers' activity were suspended temporarily in March 2018 at the behest of the police union; a follow-up rule change said that such reviews could only be conducted by auditing units at the department's four geographical bureaus and that they must be randomized.

The same audit did not turn up any body camera deviations at a fourth station, Foothill, a finding the report's authors surmised might be the result of auditors not reading officers' reports closely enough for language suggesting a possible deviation.

Officers in the other three divisions had noted in their reports why they failed to activate their cameras, but Foothill officers had not; only someone who reads an officers' daily logs line-by-line would figure out that a violation had occurred, the report's authors concluded.


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