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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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2014 @ 5:50pm

    $1500 is much to big a burden on taxpayers to fix but hey, check out this new armored combat vehicle we just got!

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2014 @ 4:45am

      Re:

      Agreed. They spend a lot of money on red light cameras, wars, and a lot of other junk, yet it's too expensive to investigate potential police misconduct.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    bshock, Apr 11th, 2014 @ 5:55pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    bshock, Apr 11th, 2014 @ 5:55pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      btr1701 (profile), Apr 13th, 2014 @ 12:38pm

      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.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2014 @ 6:17pm

    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.

     

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    •  
      icon
      btr1701 (profile), Apr 13th, 2014 @ 12:42pm

      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.

       

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      •  
        icon
        John Fenderson (profile), Apr 14th, 2014 @ 6:57am

        Re: Re:

        Yes, that's the stupid way of ensuring the devices aren't tampered with. The better way is to have the device automatically broadcast a period identifier.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2014 @ 6:40pm

    This is the only PD in World's History which managed to get successfully sued under organized crime statues (RICO). Now, person responsible (Bratton) is trying his stunts in NYC.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Strafe, Apr 11th, 2014 @ 6:56pm

    To Punish & Enslave

    If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear. Right? Honor and honesty no longer seem to be words applicable to those in law enforcement sadly. Most cops these days are little more than hired thugs, bullies whom believe they are above the law and unanswerable to anyone.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2014 @ 7:13pm

    It's okay that they aren't being recorded though since their word is more accurate.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2014 @ 8:07pm

    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.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2014 @ 8:27pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Bergman (profile), Apr 11th, 2014 @ 9:13pm

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    As any number of LAPD officers will happily tell you as they ask permission to search, if you have nothing to hid you have nothing to fear.

    Apparently there are lots of LAPD officers with plenty to fear.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2014 @ 11:12pm

    "We took the situation very seriously. But because the chances of determining who was responsible was so low we elected to move on,"

    Wow - what a joke. Are these people not overseen by anyone anymore?

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2014 @ 12:47am

      Re:

      Welcome to Change. The only change I have seen from this administration in particular is one to zero accountability.

      Pre Iron Man Stark would be proud.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        btr1701 (profile), Apr 13th, 2014 @ 12:44pm

        Re: Re:

        > Welcome to Change. The only change I have seen from
        > this administration in particular is one to zero accountability.

        I assume you're talking about Obama?

        What does the president have to do with the regulation of local law enforcement?

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Beech, Apr 12th, 2014 @ 1:22am

    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.

     

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    •  
      icon
      btr1701 (profile), Apr 13th, 2014 @ 12:49pm

      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.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2014 @ 4:40pm

        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.

         

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2014 @ 4:41pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          (not to mention tracking where that supervisor is headed which may not always be easy).

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 5:47pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Sorry, this was meant to be a response to the btr1701 (profile), Apr 13th, 2014 @ 12:42pm post and not the 12:49pm post.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    abmstudio, Apr 12th, 2014 @ 1:23am

    If you're not doing anything wrong?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2014 @ 2:52am

    Name the unemployed, unpaid Techdirt contributor with a psychotic police obsession and win a salubrious nod.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Serpico, Apr 12th, 2014 @ 11:44am

      Re:

      Remember kids, when someone writes a post about clear police misconduct that you can't refute, resort to ad hominem attacks on the author instead.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      That One Guy (profile), Apr 12th, 2014 @ 12:57pm

      Re:

      Ah, no article about police corruption and abuse of power is complete until an authoritarian and/or corrupt cop shows up to try and attack the writer because of it.

      Just wouldn't be the same without them.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Just Another Anonymous Troll, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 6:29am

      Re:

      It's you!

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2014 @ 3:43am

    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!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    OldGeezer (profile), Apr 12th, 2014 @ 6:45am

    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.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Guardian, Apr 12th, 2014 @ 5:50pm

    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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2014 @ 6:08pm

      Re: CAR 54 where are you

      Yes, and there you have it - all other countries are flawless - film at eleven.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), Apr 13th, 2014 @ 1:04pm

        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

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Pragmatic, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 9:26am

          Re: Re: Re: CAR 54 where are you

          Ah, but socialized medicine is socialist and therefore bad, or something. Why let common sense and civic responsibility get in the way of a corporate shill's conspiracy theory?

          We really, really need to keep an eye on history; not just ours, but other people's too.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Just Another Anonymous Troll, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 6:36am

    "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:
    Guns
    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 7:45am

    Solution

    Random audits, by the LA Sheriffs department (or some other outside agency)
    First offense, written reprimand to file
    Second Offense, 1 day suspension, without pay.
    Thrid offense, 5 day suspension, without pay.
    fourth offense, you're fired, with cause, no pension.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    FreeOregon, Apr 16th, 2014 @ 3:46pm

    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?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Mikey, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 11:21pm

      Re: LA Police

      Who told you it's OK to use logic and reasoning? You'd best keep those level-headed comments to yourself!

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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