The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is contemplating a change in department policy to enhance the frequency of random reviews of body camera recordings that do not involve arrests or the use of force. Chief Michel Moore expressed in an email to his senior staff that strengthening and reinforcing the number of incidents involving patrol and gang officers reviewed every 30 days would align the department’s practices with those of other agencies. The proposed change comes in the wake of revelations that members of a scandal-ridden gang unit had been regularly turning off their body-worn cameras, violating department policy.
The controversy surrounding the gang unit’s actions has prompted multiple investigations, including one by the FBI, and has raised questions about the LAPD’s failure to establish clear policies on body camera usage despite prior reports highlighting the issue. The full extent of the scandal remains unclear, but officers from the Mission Division gang unit have been accused of engaging in illegal stops, theft, and failing to document encounters with the public. Two officers involved in the scandal are facing criminal charges and potential termination.
Chief Moore is currently working on an agreement with the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing rank-and-file officers, to activate a feature that would allow the department to recover up to 18 hours of footage. This extended time frame surpasses the current buffer built into the cameras, which only saves a two-minute loop when officers activate their cameras. The proposed feature aims to shed light on serious incidents where officers may be seriously injured or killed, providing crucial information for the department’s investigations.
While the feature could be activated immediately, it requires approval from the Protective League, which negotiated the existing two-minute buffer. The League claims to have negotiated changes to camera guidelines in their latest contract, which also includes raises and bonuses for officers. These changes aim to protect officers from minor misconduct complaints discovered during body camera audits unless the progressive discipline model has been exhausted. The same applies to lesser wrongdoing discovered during video inspections related to pursuits, civilian complaints, or use-of-force incidents.
Chief Moore also mentioned ongoing efforts to modernize the department’s computer systems and collaborate with camera manufacturer Axion to improve accountability in officers’ use of body-worn cameras. In 2019, the LAPD announced increased random body camera audits to address complaints of biased policing during traffic and pedestrian stops.
The department’s auditors conduct spot checks every four weeks, randomly reviewing eight gang unit stops that do not result in enforcement action. Supervisors ensure that officers’ reports align with the captured camera footage and look for potential red flags, such as canned language in reports or overreliance on a single confidential informant.
Chief Moore emphasized the priority of these revisions and requested regular updates from his senior staff. He assigned Liz Rhodes, the LAPD’s constitutional policing director, to connect with police union president Craig Lally to gather information on other agencies’ practices regarding body-worn video captures.