UCLA in the Community

UCLA Law helps L.A. set policy for release of police body camera footage

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Los Angeles Police Department press conference
Eric Garcetti [CC BY 2.0]/Wikimedia Commons

A Los Angeles police officer demonstrates the use of a body camera at a press conference on Dec. 5, 2014, attended by LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck, Mayor Eric Garcetti and other officials.

UCLA School of Law's Critical Race Studies Program has joined with the Policing Project at New York University School of Law, the Los Angeles Police Commission, the Los Angeles Police Department and the UC Irvine School of Law to help establish LAPD policy for the release of body camera footage that's taken following officer-involved shootings and other critical incidents.

The police commission is asking members of the public, community groups and law enforcement representatives to help establish policies responsive to the concerns of the community and the needs of law enforcement. Input will be gathered in forums around Los Angeles and through a questionnaire available here

The LAPD has begun to utilize body cameras worn by patrol officers, and expects to issue cameras to all patrol officers on the force by the end of this year. Currently, the LAPD does not release videos of critical incidents except when used in a trial or by order of a court.

UCLA Law's Critical Race Studies Program and its partners will mobilize public engagement and input into the decision-making process of the L.A. Police Commission as well as summarize public comment in a report to the commission. Devon Carbado, UCLA's Honorable Harry Pregerson Professor of Law and the associate vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion, is leading UCLA Law's participation in the project. Jasleen Kohli, director of the school's Critical Race Studies program, is working to engage community organizations from around the city.

"Deployment of police body cameras remains a controversial issue for people across the ideological spectrum, with people differing on whether this new technology will produce greater police accountability and transparency," Carbado said.  "At the same time, most people agree that use of body cameras raises a host of legal and ethical questions, which is why it is important to have open and community-wide discussions about the technology."  

The UC Irvine School of Law's participation is led by professor L. Song Richardson, senior associate dean for academic affairs and a member of the faculty advisory board of the UC Irvine Center on Law Equality and Race.

The Policing Project at NYU Law is dedicated to promoting greater engagement between police and the public on policing policy. It previously has worked closely with cities, including New York, Cleveland and Camden, New Jersey.

Community members can provide input in one of three ways: by attending L.A. Police Commission forums; by filling out the brief questionnaire; or by submitting more detailed written comments. The first community forum took place in the South Los Angeles Bureau on March 23. Other meetings are scheduled on April 12, 20 and 23.

The public comment period will last 45 days. The Policing Project is expected to release a report summarizing public feedback in June, and the police commission is expected to issue its preliminary policy proposal in July.

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