11/22/2006

LAPD squads to get cameras to track how arrests are made

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Police Department will begin installing digital video cameras in some patrol cars to better track how arrests are made _ an issue under scrutiny since two amateur videos recently surfaced showing forceful tactics by officers.

The City Council approved on $5 million Monday for the cameras, which they will begin placing in patrol cars starting next week. Officials hope to install cameras in most of the 300 patrol cars in that bureau by the end of next year, with the goal of expanding to the rest of the force over the next three years.

LAPD Inspector General Andre Birotte Jr. said the cameras would help hold the department accountable as well as clear officers of unfounded allegations.

"For that small percentage of officers that want to go on a wayward path, we would hope that those videos would help put them back on track," he said. "For those officers doing the right thing, if they are accused of misconduct and the video shows otherwise, you have it on tape."

The department is currently wrestling with the fallout from two videos showing forceful actions by police officers. They were both shot by passers-by.

Footage posted on the Web site YouTube.com showed the August arrest of an alleged gang member. Two officers can be seen holding him down on a Hollywood curb as one punches him several times in the face.

The other video showed an officer using pepper spray on a handcuffed suspect who is then left in a closed patrol car.

The officers were cleared of wrongdoing in both cases, though an administrative review to determine whether the actions were within the standards set out in department policy is ongoing in the Hollywood case.

Police Chief William Bratton said Tuesday after reviewing the second video that he will not change department policy on the use of pepper spray. Officers will still be able to use the disabling spray against combative or uncooperative suspects, Bratton said in a posting on http://www.lapdblog.org.

"(Pepper) spray is a highly effective non-lethal tool that is necessary for the officers to use when trying to de-escalate a confrontation with an uncooperative and or combative suspect," Bratton said.

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