By Richard Winton
The Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — In the wake of the MacArthur Park melee, LAPD Chief William J. Bratton had decided the best way to avoid future problems is for his department to produce its own brand of reality television.
A Los Angeles Police Department camera crew will follow officers through major incidents, recording their actions from the early roll call to the after-incident report.
"Every 15 minutes or 30 minutes, the incident commander will narrate what is occurring at the event," said Deputy Chief Mike Hillman, the new head of the department's critical-incident training bureau, who developed the idea.
Officials hope the camera will provide a solid record of what happened — and keep officers on their best behavior.
During the May 1 immigration rally at the park, TV cameras recorded officers swinging batons and firing less-than-lethal weapons at protesters and journalists.
Bratton has expressed concerns over the police actions and demoted two commanders who oversaw the incident. LAPD and FBI investigations are continuing.
The LAPD is no stranger to videotaping, but usually officers didn't know they were being recorded.
The department was roiled by the 1991 videotape of officers beating motorist Rodney G. King. Three years ago, a TV news helicopter crew recorded an LAPD officer beating car-chase suspect Stanley Miller with a flashlight. Several cellphone videos of LAPD officers dealing with suspects have ended up on the YouTube website recently.
LAPD videographers have long worked with the department, generally in an ancillary role.
Now, they will take center stage.
"Everything we do needs to be documented so we have an accounting of our actions," Hillman said.
It's part of a larger cultural shift for officers.
In the age of cellphone cameras, LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said he tells officers that "each and every action you take on the streets is likely to be on video."
Mary Grady, LAPD communications director and a former TV reporter, said that videographers are being trained how best to capture the establishment of skirmish lines and other tactics at major events to tell the story.
At the recent labor union march, Deputy Chief Richard Roupoli became the first incident commander to formally begin providing a documentary commentary on events.
Images can also do more than document events: LAPD officials say they can also allow them to make better decisions during the event.
Next month, the LAPD will equip a helicopter with a state-of-the-art, high-definition camera capable of covertly capturing from several thousand feet up detailed images of an incident, even in low light.
The images will be beamed to a command station on the ground and back to top officials at police headquarters in real time.
Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times
LAPD to videotape major incidents