The Los Angeles Police Department announced this month that it will reform current policies in response to public concerns over police shootings and accountability. According to the Los Angeles Times, they will work toward “releasing information to the public more quickly and expanding training designed to reduce the number of shootings.” The LAPD has encountered various cases related to police shootings. Walter William DeLeon, an unarmed man with a cloth was shot in the head, but the Police Commission later decided that given the situation, police action was justified. Another incident occurred in August 2016, when Donnell Thompson was shot, mistaken for a different suspect in a car hijacking case. In the last year, LAPD received much backlash for refusing to release video footage without a court order. For the last several months, across the nation, the Black Lives Matter movement, has continued to pressure police departments to hold their officers accountable for their actions.
While body cameras and other tools for increased transparency are a necessary starting point in restoring trust in the police system, they can also be demeaning for moral police officers and can serve as constant reminders of the distrust. These measures are necessary to reverse the backlash and misconduct that have come to light recently, but police officers should not always have to feel like they must prove themselves and compensate for the actions of other officers. Therefore, in the long-term, preventative methods and restructuring of police training and protocol are more effective and absolutely necessary. Body cameras are ultimately helpful, but must be accompanied by other measures.
It is clear that the relationship between the police and their communities, specifically those containing large percentages of people of color must be mended. A 2015 Gallup poll claimed that distrust for the police is the lowest it has been in 22 years. The Los Angeles Police Department in conjunction with Mayor Eric Garcetti are actively taking measures to be one of the most progressive and adaptable police forces in the nation. Movements to outfit every police officer with body cameras, while controversial, eventually passed with unanimous backing by the police commission. This would make the LAPD the biggest police department to implement such a widespread policy.
Increased transparency is the first important step in regaining the trust of the Los Angeles community. Body cameras allow citizens to see the commendable efforts of ethical police officers, and their commitment to maintaining safety. During a time when misconduct of police officers has been highlighted and publicized, examples of police integrity are essential to prove that officers’ ultimate goal is protect their citizens. Additionally, body cameras are an essential catalyst to the systemic change that activists are demanding from police departments. A study done by University of South Florida showed that “use-of-force” incidents dropped 53 percent with officers who utilized the body cameras. Body cameras hold officers accountable for their actions and allow civilians to feel secure in the fact that police actions are justified and truly done in the interest of public safety.
Body cameras were advocated in the study. Some more specific protocols were proposed as well, including limiting the number of attempts a police officer has to qualify with their service weapon, routine, reality-based training modules for all police officers in addition to those that take place in training and psychological assessments after shootings.
The acceptance and financial investment into this program proves the city and police department’s commitment to improving public opinion and decreasing incidents. Changes in protocol are far less costly to implement, and many already have the framework in place, only needing written procedure to progress.
As the third largest police department in the nation, the LAPD has the opportunity to set the standard for large police departments across the nation. The short-term and long-term proposals are sure to have positive benefits and effects on the community, and LAPD must remain committed to this mission.