LAPD's Body Cams To Be Synced To Taser Deployment

from the recorded-into-compliance dept

The Los Angeles Police Department is going to be compiling some pretty graphic footage in the near future, thanks to Taser International.

Los Angeles police on Tuesday ordered Tasers that, when used, automatically activate cameras on officers' uniforms, which will create visual records of incidents at a time of mounting concern about excessive force by U.S. law enforcement officers.

The 3,000 new digital Taser X26P weapons record the date, time and duration of firing, and whether Taser wires actually strike suspects and how long the thousands of volts of electricity pulse through them.
This is the functional synergy of buying your "less lethal" weapons and body cameras from the same company. A Bluetooth connection between the two engages the camera once the Taser's safety is disengaged. This should provide a fairly decent record of incidents involving this particular form of force, while simultaneously addressing fears that officers might forget to engage the camera during heated situations or lose valuable seconds turning them on manually.

That the device will also record key data about the Taser itself is also encouraging. Even if the camera angle is less than helpful, the captured metrics should give overseers a pretty good idea whether the use of force traveled into "excessive" territory.

On the downside, this is the LAPD, which has already stated that body camera footage will be available only via court proceedings. By cutting out the general public, the LAPD has removed a very important layer of accountability. And the incidents mentioned in the Reuters article as examples of public concern over police use of force (Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford) all notably did not involve the use of a Taser (Garner was choked to death, Brown and Ford were both shot). The new Taser/camera system closes the accountability gap for one particular area, but use of other types of force are still subject to officers' control of their body cameras.

The LAPD has proven in the past that its officers don't care much for being recorded, so the rollout of 7,000 body cameras needs to be treated with more skepticism than optimism. Widespread abuse of DOJ-mandated audio recording devices (missing/disabled antennas, deliberate disengagement) has been greeted by LAPD supervisors with timid hand slapping and "accountability is hard" complaints. There's no reason to believe certain officers won't be able to find a way around this new, automatic recording technology as well.

But, on a theoretical level, it's a better system than relying on officers themselves to engage recording devices before deploying Tasers. Its application in the real world will probably not be quite as foolproof as Taser's spokesman portrays it. And, even if it does roll out smoothly and work as advertised, we're still left with the unfortunate fact that the general public will have very limited access to either the Taser data or the automated recordings.


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  • icon
    Sneeje (profile), 12 Jan 2015 @ 7:48pm

    And the events leading up to the tasering?

    Maybe I'm just not understanding either this proposal or the events that precipitated this, but it seems like the issues have been around what suspects have done prior to the use of force.

    Isn't all this going to do is show the suspects in full on seizure?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 9:37pm

      Re: And the events leading up to the tasering?

      Sounds like the theoretical sequence of events goes:

      1) Pull taser
      2) Disengage safety to actually use the taser
      3) Body camera snaps on
      4) Camera records the officer tasering a stationary suspect whose hands are open and empty in the air, or a suspect lying face down on the ground with hand on the back of their head; as the officer shouts "Stop resisting!"
      5) Officer claims they had to use their taser because the suspect was resisting arrest, resulting in a "resisting arrest" charge.
      6) Resisting arrest charge gets dropped before it can be laughed out of court once people actually review the camera footage.
      7) Suspect escapes an unjust charge, and the officer walks away with maybe a slap on the wrist.

      Which is a marked improvement over the current sequence of events:

      1) Pull taser
      2) Disengage safety to actually use the taser
      3) Officer tasers a stationary suspect whose hands are open and empty in the air, or a suspect lying face down on the ground with hand on the back of their head, to their heart's content; as the officer shouts "Stop resisting!"
      5) Officer claims they had to use their taser because the suspect was resisting arrest, resulting in a "resisting arrest" charge.
      6) Suspect walks away with either a plea bargain, or gets a slightly worse sentence than the plea bargain after being convicted of resisting arrest because the courts trust police officers. Officer walks away without so much as a slap on the wrist.

      It's certainly not perfect, but it attempts to both automate, and mandate, recording of some valuable context for taser usage. Which can help stem that type of abuse, or at the very least provide some more accurate stats on frequency of taser usage.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 8:20am

        Re: Re: And the events leading up to the tasering?

        3) Body camera snaps on


        How much would you like to bet that if cam is already on, 3) becomes:
        Body camera snaps off

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 9:18am

          Re: Re: Re: And the events leading up to the tasering?

          I did say it was theoretical. In practice I expect the concern won't be the body camera snapping off per se. Rather I expect the problem will be that the officer totally forgot to charge it, or totally forgot to put it on after putting it in the charger overnight. Thus it has no power with which to come on in the first place.

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

    • identicon
      Andrew D. Todd, 13 Jan 2015 @ 9:01am

      Re: And the events leading up to the tasering?

      You have, say, a two-minute recording loop, which normally gets continually over-written, but if the trigger is activated, all the temporary data gets saved, as well as whatever happens next.

      There are all kinds of things you can do. For example, competition fencing foils have little switches built into the tips to enable an electric scoring machine. One could presumably modify a baton in the same way.

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 9:39am

        Re: Re: And the events leading up to the tasering?

        "You have, say, a two-minute recording loop, which normally gets continually over-written"

        That would be a really terrible design that would eliminate much of the good that the cameras could do. In this day and age, it would be cheap and easy to just allow continuous recording throughout the entire shift.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 9:25pm

    Camera footage is only good if the officer is held responsible for his actions. As long as you have a judge willing to take the officer's testimony over what can plainly be seen on camera footage not to be the case, cameras will do nothing to stop those that abuse their authority.

    Actions such as what have been mentioned already in this article are just a set up for ignoring what camera footage would bring out. In addition, only filming the moment of arming a taser does not tell you what transpired to reach that level. We've seen often enough that in many cases the officer himself escalates the circumstances and that will not be part of the record.

    This is not setup to be accountability, this is set up to continue to hide the abuse.

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

  • icon
    Blaine (profile), 12 Jan 2015 @ 10:09pm

    bluetooth connection

    I sure hope some clever person doesn't figure out how to trigger the camera with their cell phone.

    Of course then the cops would claim that any phone could be interfering with blah blah blah BANG

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 11:04pm

    Better Yet

    The body cam should automatically activate the moment an officers gun is removed from its holster while on duty.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 11:39pm

      Re: Better Yet

      This is how I feel, although I'd go further; have it activate whilst clocked-in. That way, you can record everything necessary whilst still giving the expectation of privacy whilst not officially working.

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

    • icon
      Rabbit80 (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 3:53am

      Re: Better Yet

      Better still, why not activate the camera by sound - such as when shouting is detected? (As well as when the gun/tazer is unholstere)d

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 11:39pm

    All police should be legally required to have camera/microphones permanently active while on duty.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 2:07am

    I wonder how long it'll take for the intent of this pairing of taser+cam to get turned on its head.

    Instead of forcing the camera to activate in case it had inadvertently been turned off before an encounter (with "on" being the default), LEOs will start to argue that the automated system frees them from any responsibility or obligation to have the cameras running at all unless a taser is being used.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 3:10am

    A Bluetooth connection between the two engages the camera once the Taser's safety is disengaged. This should provide a fairly decent record of incidents involving this particular form of force,

    The problem with this, is that the camera will not capture how the situation arrived at the point that the officer decided to use a taser. That is, it is possible for an officer to provoke the situation that warrant use of the taser without the provocation being recorded.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 3:46am

    the cameras should be on all the time or at least as soon as the taser is taken out of it's holster! waiting until the taser is actually used misses creating a record of what led to the taser being used! the officer could come up with any excuse to protect his ass, not that any police officer would lie, of course!

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

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 13 Jan 2015 @ 5:00am

    Privacy

    Great, I hear it now, CHANNEL 13 News: "The LAPD has reduced the amount of Taser shootings and went back to using bullets. The police commissioner mentions the sudden change is to ensure they do not violate suspects privacy by recording video."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 5:34am

    better than nothing, I suppose

    An important/useful thing here would be for the taser's safety to not release if the body cam can't be activated and actually form an image. That'll serve to make sure the cops can't mess with the camera's functionality.

    You want to use the taser? You have to be able to record - it should not be an option.

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

    • icon
      scotts13 (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 5:52am

      Re: better than nothing, I suppose

      That would be nice in some ways... but even I can see the safety objections. Being unable to use your weapon because the electronics are glitching?

      Since the contents are already out of the public eye, simply record every minute of the work shift. You can fast forward through the bathroom breaks. The camera footage will BE the officers testimony in every case. If it's not on film, it happened however the victim (sorry, suspect) says it did.

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

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 6:33am

    Make the recording ubiquitous

    Add this capability to their firearms as well. "Gee your honor, there is no camera footage. I didn't taser the subject. I shot him with my 9mm gun...".

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

  • icon
    Strut (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 7:34am

    Great, give the cops another reason to forgo the use of non-deadly force.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 8:36am

    The camera has to be designed to trigger off of multiple sources of input:

    • Obviously when the officer turns it on,

    • whenever an object is removed from the belt of the officer,

    • When the officer uses the radio to call in information,

    • possible if there is loud noises like shouting but this might create too many false triggers

    • And tie it to a sensor for the vital signs of the officer. If their heart rate spikes or he/she starts breathing heavily and rapidly probably the officer is in a situation that will warrant capturing the events (think fight or flight response).

    • Consider also the ability of dispatch being able to turn on the camera remotely if there is a large scale problem going on you would have to trust that adults are at dispatch to avoid turning the camera on when the cop is using the bathroom


    Once on the camera shouldn't be turned off by anything other than police headquarters remotely turning it off.
    Then require that an external board for oversite of the system.

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 8:51am

      Re:

      The camera should be on and recording for the full time the cop is on duty. There is no need for a triggering event.

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

      • identicon
        bobedod, 13 Jan 2015 @ 9:32am

        Re: Re:

        While that would be ideal. You also have to look at storage of all that data. For a small town with only a few cops it wouldn't be a problem just record everything by sending it to a central server then only save parts when there is an incident. However the scale for a much larger force might cause an overload for the servers and also you will have to store for an extended time anything that could be used as evidence. Then have a back system for the storage.

        By just triggering the recording you don't have to constantly be uploading content and congesting the bandwidth with needless info. But there is the trade-off you might miss something important because a recording wasn't triggered in time.

        Course the NSA in a gesture of good will could turn over the use of their Utah site for storing and indexing the videos.

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

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 9:41am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Or you could store all that video on an SD card or somesuch on the device itself (guarded by tamper-evident seals). At the end of the shift, the card is removed and stored and a new card is inserted for the next shift.

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

      • icon
        GEMont (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 5:01pm

        Re: Re:

        Absolutely agree. There is no excuse for NOT recording the entire duty period of each officer every day. The storage capacity of modern hardware is sufficient to the task and the cards used to record each days activities could be stored in a vault for a week and then erased and recycled back into duty. The cards could also be dumped into a large capacity storage device for permanent archiving and then returned blank to duty the same day.

        However, as long as the public is kept out of the loop, this whole concept is pointless and ineffective.

        ALL POLICE records should be public property. When the Police own such records, they no longer work for the public and have become a force unto themselves answering to an unknown authority.

        And as far as I can tell, that situation already exists.

        ---

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

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 10:40am

    Good news for the Los Angeles public then.

    LAPD officers will no longer be using the Tasers they are issued for subduing suspected law-breakers.

    On the other hand, use of batons, guns and fists will rise exponentially, as these methods of law enforcement do not yet carry automatic recording technology.

    ---

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 10:51am

      Re:

      But the police tend to be overzealous in their use of tasers, and use them in situations where they would not have used batons, guns, or fists if tasers weren't available.

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

      • icon
        GEMont (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 1:35pm

        Re: Re:

        "But the police tend to be overzealous in their use of tasers..."

        That's why I started the post with:

        "Good news for the Los Angeles public then."

        Bad news is of course that now the cops will instead, be "forced" to use the older methods of punishment... er, enforcement.

        ---

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 11:09am

    How about making it work the other way?

    How about this. The Taser won't fire unless the camera has been recording for at least 30 seconds, and within several feet of the Taser.

    (Wouldn't want to 'accidentally' leave the camera in the car. In a plastic bag. With a sign saying: Danger! Biohazard!)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 11:28am

    waste of money

    They should be required to these on all the time. They can turn them off for their breaks only. Just archive the data for XX months. Linking this crap just adds cost to US and complexity that will be used as an excuse why it didnt work.

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 11:58am

    Still not solving the problem.

    The footage is available to the police force but not the public until submitted to the courts by the prosecuting attorney.

    That means the footage, whether or not triggered by a taser, will only be available if it serves towards conviction of the suspect.

    And footage that shows police wrongdoing gets systematically "lost".

    The police have nothing to fear from bodycams any more than they have to fear dashcams.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 4:14pm

    I believe this auto-record once the trigger is pulled will turn out to be useless. The video will not show what events led up to the use of the taser. The videos will provide no context of the overall situation involving the suspect and the officer.

    All the video will show is the suspect being electrocuted and dropping to the ground face first. With the only context being the officer's sworn statement about what led up to the altercation. On other words, useless.

    Remember when police rolled up on a 7 year old boy with a BB gun and shot him dead in 2 seconds? The only reason we know the altercation only lasted 2 seconds is thanks to the park's security cameras. If the officer's camera only started rolling once the trigger was pulled. It would be easy for him to say he tried to talk the boy down. Which we know didn't happen, thanks to the 3rd party camera system in the park.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2015 @ 6:22am

    Will this also happen if they beat, shoot, or strangle somebody to death?

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


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