The Los Angeles Police Department is coming under fire after it was revealed that police officers have been routinely tampering with video and voice recording equipment.
The department is often at the center of controversy and police brutality protests, making the disabling of dozens of patrol cars’ monitoring systems even more problematic.
Records and interviews show that the the LAPD regularly disabled such monitoring devices, particular upon entering the inner city.
According to the LA Times, the inspection into the LAPD revealed that, “about half of the estimated 80 cars in one South L.A. patrol division were missing antennas, which help capture what officers say in the field. The antennas in at least 10 more cars in nearby divisions had also been removed.”
That means that the LAPD was targeting specific areas for illegal police activity and they did not want to be monitored there, specifically.
The Times reports the following:
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and other top officials learned of the problem last summer but chose not to investigate which officers were responsible. Rather, the officials issued warnings against continued meddling and put checks in place to account for antennas at the start and end of each patrol shift.
Members of the Police Commission, which oversees the department, were not briefed about the problem until months later. In interviews with The Times, some commissioners said they were alarmed by the officers’ attempts to conceal what occurred in the field, as well as the failure of department officials to come forward when the problem first came to light.
“On an issue like this, we need to be brought in right away,” Steve Soboroff, the commission President, explained. “This equipment is for the protection of the public and of the officers. To have people who don’t like the rules to take it upon themselves to do something like this is very troubling.”
Beck said that the failure to alert the board was “unintentional.”
“The department did not try to hide this issue,” Beck added.
The cameras are designed to turn on automatically whenever the emergency lights and sirens on a vehicle are activated. But they can also be manually activated or deactivated.
Officers also wear transmitters on their belts that transmit their voices back to the patrol car.
Cmdr. Andrew Smith, a spokesman for Beck said that with “a total of about 160 antennas installed in Southeast Division vehicles, 72 had been removed… Twenty antennas from cars in other divisions were missing as well,” according to the Times.
“We took the situation very seriously. But because the chances of determining who was responsible was so low we elected to… move on,” Smith added.