Los Angeles Cops Found To Be Tampering With Mandated Recording Devices

from the all-the-power,-zero-accountability dept

Who watches the watchers? Well, when you’re the Los Angeles Police Department, you watch yourself. And when that kind of watching seems to be inhibiting, you just screw with the “watching” equipment. (via Ars Technica)

Los Angeles police officers tampered with voice recording equipment in dozens of patrol cars in an effort to avoid being monitored while on duty, according to records and interviews.

An inspection by Los Angeles Police Department investigators found 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.

These antennas, linked to both in-car camera systems and officers’ body mics, helped increase the recording range. Removing the antennas didn’t completely prevent recordings, but it did make it harder to pick up officers’ voices once they entered buildings or ventured further away from the receivers located in the vehicles. According to the manufacturer, the antenna boosts the effective range of the body-worn transmitters by roughly a third.

When you’re watching yourself (something prompted by a decade-long DOJ investigation of the LAPD), you have this luxury. No cop’s going to turn in another cop who removes an antenna or otherwise tampers with the department-imposed oversight measures. A whole lot of time elapsed between when the tampering was discovered and when it was finally brought to the attention of those charged with monitoring the monitoring.

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,” commission President Steve Soboroff said. “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.”

This is very troubling, and while it’s nice of the Police Commission to admit that fact, this tampering points to the officers’ underlying resentment of nearly any method of monitoring or control. Many police officers don’t like being recorded in public by citizens, so it stands to reason they don’t much care for being recorded by the department itself. Hence, antennas go missing.

Those who are supposed to be making sure the police officers aren’t becoming a law unto themselves seem to have little interest in attacking the mindset that leads to this sort of behavior.

“We took the situation very seriously. But because the chances of determining who was responsible was so low we elected to … move on,” [LAPD Commander Andrew] Smith said, adding that it cost the department about $1,500 to replace all the antennas.

Too hard, won’t try. That’s the standard being applied to the LAPD. Instead of making an effort, band aids are being applied. Officers are now supposed to sign off that the antennas are in place at the beginning and end of their shift. This leaves a gaping hole in coverage (otherwise known as the shift itself) should officers decide they’d rather not be recorded. This hole has received its own band aid.

To guard against officers removing the antennas during their shifts, Tingirides said he requires patrol supervisors to make unannounced checks on cars.

Great, but considering there are many more officers than supervisors, and considering the fact that it took months before the missing antennas were brought to the attention of the Police Commission, who really believes this is going to stop officers from disabling antennas during work hours?

Oh, Commander Smith believes.

Since the new protocols went into place, only one antenna has been found missing, Smith said.

Well, that’s the sort of result you can expect from self-reporting. Sure, a few cops may get a verbal handslap from a supervisor if they happen to come across a missing antenna, but it’s a safe bet these supervisors aren’t any happier about their men and women being recorded while on duty. Because if they did care, it never would have gotten to the point where nearly half of the antennas in a single division went missing.

With these cops being charged with keeping department-issued antennas present and accounted for, some have opted to go a different route to avoid being recorded.

Last month, the department conducted a follow-up audit and found that dozens of the transmitters worn by officers in Southeast Division were missing or damaged.

This time there’s actually an investigation being opened, months after the original antenna abuse was uncovered by an internal audit (but hidden from the Police Commission). Judging from what’s happened previously, there’s very little reason to believe this will lead to the ouster of bad cops who don’t like accountability. A few scapegoats may be offered up to calm both the public and department oversight, but if a ten-year investigation by the DOJ failed to bring about the sort of systemic change needed, it’s highly unlikely an internal investigation will result in anything better.

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Comments on “Los Angeles Cops Found To Be Tampering With Mandated Recording Devices”

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bshock says:

who cares who watches the watchers?

Don’t get me wrong: if I had my way, every police officer would be under recorded AV surveillance every second of every day.

But even if we did that, what difference would it really make?

These are the guys with the guns, and they stick together regardless of what crimes their associates may commit.

So even if you’re watching the watchers, you will never have enough power to do anything about their illegal activities. They certainly won’t help you punish one of their own. Most likely you’ll just end up in prison instead.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: who cares who watches the watchers?

Don’t get me wrong: if I had my way, every police officer
> would be under recorded AV surveillance every second
> of every day.

And then you’d be just as bad as all the NSA big-government spy crap that’s going on.

I mean, you really think you have a right to observe a cop, when he’s off-duty, in his own home, monitor his/her communications, watch him with his family, in his bedroom with his wife, etc.?

I take that back. You wouldn’t be just as bad. You’d be worse.

Anonymous Coward says:

While I agree the department maybe able to investigate the issue more I do think the department, in admitting the problem and taking steps to correct it instead of running away from it, took a very good step in the right direction. A response this good is unprecedented and, while it may not be perfect, it should be regarded as a good step in the right direction and we should give at least some credit where credit is due.

Of course only time may tell how strictly this will be implemented/enforced and if it will reduce police abuse. That will be the true test.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

instead of running away from it, took a very good
> step in the right direction

Except it’s useless. It took me two seconds after reading this:

> > To guard against officers removing the antennas
> > during their shifts, Tingirides said he requires
> > patrol supervisors to make unannounced checks
> > on cars.

…to know how the cops are avoiding the inspections. Every one of them likely has a personal iPhone or other kind of smart phone. They’re all texting each other the location of the supervisors so everyone knows when to screw the antenna back on. And since they’re doing it on their personally owned phones, no record is being kept of the comms that the department can access.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Erasing Thin Blue Line

The only solution I can see is to replace each and every member of the LAPD. Like when Reagan fired the Air Traffic Controllers. What a mess.

Call in the National Guard in along with some state level investigators, and then require a no complaints record from any experienced law enforcement officer applying (talk about global warming, hell is freezing over).

Those few good cops on the force will find other employment, unfortunately, so will the rest of them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Chris Dorner

This is the same area where Chris Dorner claimed to have proof of illegality going all the way up in their chain. He was subsequently hunted with every available resource and a smear campaign went out to discredit anything he said. If you can find it, read his manifesto and then look at what we now know to be true of this organization.

Beech says:

Seems like another simple (if radical) solution that directly flies in the face of a separate court ruling mentioned on TD this week: declare the cops untrustworthy.

Pass a law that says that if a cop is outfitted with a recording device AND it isn’t operating to spec. THEN his testimony in court is automatically declared to be less trustworthy than someone else’s.

If I’m suing a cop for brutality, and he testifies that he never touched me, but it just so happens that his antenna was missing, then his testimony is stricken from the record.

Make cops realize that it’s more expensive TO THEM not to have a functioning recorder.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

if a cop is outfitted with a recording device AND
> it isn’t operating to spec. THEN his testimony in
> court is automatically declared to be less trustworthy
> than someone else’s. If it just so happens that his
> antenna was missing, then his testimony is stricken
> from the record.

Wait, what? That doesn’t make sense. First you say that an unrecorded cop’s testimony should be given lesser weight, then you claim it shouldn’t be stricken altogether. You’re all over the map here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

No system is ever perfect but a system in place is better than no system in place. and this system, I think, is a good step in the right direction. This does raise the barrier to getting away with it and adds the inconvenience of having to track where a supervisor is by every cop at all times without ever making a mistake.

What really needs to be implemented, though, are clearly defined punishments for being caught breaking policy. If you cheat on a test chances are you will get away with it. but if you get caught the punishment is steep enough for it not to be worth the risk to most. To that end I see this lacking.

This whole thing could also be just a bunch of grandstanding by the department commissioners to make it look like it’s trying to protect the public against bad cops. Pick something that many members of the public would consider minor and not worth pursuing and have the commission act like it’s outraged about it and taking steps to serve the public interest. Makes them look good and needed without making the cops look too bad in the process.

Anonymous Coward says:

the police state which is what the USA is becoming, is because of the lack of discipline against officers when caught out. there is far too little punishment done when officers do something wrong. the ranks close and anyone who is deemed to have snitched is outcast. the authority police officers have goes to a certain level, but they want it to go to the level they decide, ie, we can do what we want, how we want, when we want, under whatever circumstances we want. a classic example of that is the video on techdirt yesterday of the homeless guy being shot. if that action doesn’t raise alarm bells it damn well should!!

OldGeezer (profile) says:

A good cop would want everything he did recorded. There are those who will make false claims seeking money. If the cop did nothing wrong he would want proof of that. I saw a Judge Judy episode where this girl who thought she should have special privileges because her dad was a cop was lying her ass off about a traffic stop. When the cop replied that he had the whole event recorded you could tell this spoiled brat nearly shit herself. The cop did everything by the book and was never impolite or even raised his voice. (I personally would have bitch slapped her) Had he not had this recording it would have ended with he said she said. Judge Judy not only awarded the maximum amount but gave her a court order to write a letter of apology to his captain requesting that this be removed from the officer’s jacket. It would serve these cops right who do not want to be recorded if someone files a false complaint and they have no way to prove it.

Guardian says:

CAR 54 where are you

so the LAPD is all but admitting it does not know when and which officers get into a vehicle and any damage that occurs to them….

like the nsa saying it never knew about the ssl bug FIRE THE LOT and start over with accountability….

jesus what a sick fucking country the usa is….

who the fuck would want t immigrate to the usa must be some kind of arsehole

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: CAR 54 where are you

At what point does the status of other countries inform how we assess our own? If that were the case we might have socialized medicine by now. Then again you could be implying humans are apes, roaring and red-handed, and that our own brutal nature will shatter civilization again and again, and many scholars share your opinion. But then is nothing to be done for it but to wait for the proletariat’s outrage?

At this point there are numerous examples of how the justice system treats differently the affluent, the impoverished (along with the marginalized) and law enforcement. As things are, the separated caste of law enforcement officers is conspicuously similar to the Freikorps-style paramilitary clans that maintained order in Germany and Prussia. Not a good time for them either.

History is where everything happened. Perhaps we should keep an eye on it.

As of this posting I have not received a US National Security Letter or any classified gag order from an agent of the United States
Encrypted with Morbius-Cochrane Perfect Steganographic Codec 1.2.001
Sunday, April 13, 2014 12:59:04 PM
scissors guitar chess flight judo user experience dance butter

Just Another Anonymous Troll says:

“This equipment is for the protection of the public and of the officers.”
Pretty sure it’s just for the public. The officers have sufficient protection already. They have:
More cops (also with guns)
Armored troop carriers
Legal immunity
A court of law that always believes them
The blue wall of silence
More guns
A police department that won’t even try to prosecute them (loving that legal immunity)
Even more guns

Whereas we citizens have:
A lawyer against the cop-friendly courts (if you live to see them)
Not resisting or else you will die (sometimes you die anyway though)
Cameras that cops can now disable

Yippee. I feel so safe.

FreeOregon says:

LA Police

What if we recruit for policework people with a different psychological profile?

Say,people whose courage comes from inside themselves and not from the barrel of a gun?

How about peacemakers instead of law enforcers? People who relate to others without threats of violence?

Might it help if we have fewer, simpler laws that everyone can understand?

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