POLICE POLITICS--Mayor Garcetti should rip up the $69 million, conflict-of-interest-tainted, police body camera purchase order recently slapped on his desk by Mitchell Englander (photo above) … the soon-to-be-termed out City Councilmember and recently defeated County Supervisor candidate … whose tireless efforts at ramming the toxic body camera procurement through the Council finally succeeded a few weeks ago.
The deal is a slap in the face of rank-and-file cops, who don’t need Mitch Englander looking over their shoulders and telling them how to do their jobs.
Englander’s resolution ignored feedback from those cops whose opinions of the body cameras didn’t agree with the Taser International sales pitch.
In September 2015, several LA County Sheriff deputies took the Taser body cameras among others for a test drive. One deputy expressed concern that because the camera is mounted on the officer's chest—and so gets blocked by the officer’s arms precisely when he is using the “best practice” approach of holding his gun out with two hands—the public might think that he was trying to conceal his actions; which in turn could inadvertently result in the kind of public outrage without which the Dallas massacre would almost certainly not have happened.
Other reasons why the chest-placement of the Taser body camera could make it seem like the officer was trying to conceal his actions, according to some of the deputies, are that the chest-mounted camera, unlike a head-mounted device: (a) “chops off the head” of the person with whom the officer is interacting; (b) gets blocked every time the officer touches his police radio; and (c) doesn’t “see” what the officer sees when he turns his head. At a time when every cell phone is also a video camera, chest-mounted body cameras strip police officers of their ability to have their side of the story told.
It’s self-evident that transparency in the context of police actions makes safer both the police officer and the individual involved in the incident.
And it’s undeniable that our “police shooting incident” crisis needs immediate addressing. But Mr. Englander's approach of saddling LA with a rip-off deal (including 4400 unwanted Tasers!) from Taser International itself (from which, as reported in the LA Times, he took 12 campaign donations during the procurement process) is obviously not the approach the Mayor should embrace.
It’s time for the Mayor to give the great sales team at Taser a polite “no thanks” so that legitimate stakeholders in Los Angeles can begin without delay the process of shaping a common sense and fair policy with regard to the issues above. That discussion should include the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, since it is that agency which ends up having to deal with police shootings. It makes no sense to develop two separate video policies for LAPD and the Sheriff’s Department. It also makes no sense to favor chest-mounted cameras over those mounted on the head or to craft a policy unnecessarily burdensome on officers, as would be the case if those officers were required to keep their cameras on 24/7 instead of just during certain types of encounters.
And as for any free samples of the chest-mounted body cameras which Mr. Englander or other members of the City Council may have received from Taser International during the procurement process, why not have the City Council members wear them?
(Eric Preven is a CityWatch contributor and a Studio City based writer-producer and public advocate for better transparency in local government. He was a candidate in the 2015 election for Los Angeles City Council, 2nd District. Joshua Preven is a teacher who lives in Los Angeles. Views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.