For weeks after the Mission Division scandal broke in late August, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore repeatedly framed the growing crisis as an isolated problem of rogue gang officers who flouted LAPD regulations by turning off their body-worn cameras at critical moments. Moore said there was no evidence so far that other units were engaging in serious allegations facing Mission gang officers, who have been accused of theft, illegal stops and searches, and the use of Apple AirTags to track people. An internal department report found that the body camera issue is more widespread than the department is letting on publicly, reports the Los Angeles Times. The confidential report by command staff from the 77th Street Division said that patrol officers were turning off their cameras in violation of department policy. One possible explanation for these lapses, the report says, is a “real perception” that exists among many officers that they are “somehow excused” from turning on their cameras in time to capture encounters with the public, so long as they can articulate a clear reason for not doing so. At the same time, some supervisors are under the impression that they are only required to review officers’ body camera footage in a narrow set of situations, the report said.
Quality service inspections of officers’ activity were suspended temporarily in 2018 at the behest of the police union; a follow-up rule change said that such reviews could only be conducted by auditing units at the department’s four geographical bureaus and that they must be randomized. Officers in three divisions had noted in their reports why they failed to activate their cameras. Only someone who reads an officers’ daily logs line-by-line would figure out that a violation had occurred, the report’s authors concluded. The report said that even with a greater emphasis on body camera compliance, officers would find other ways to get around the rules. LAPD rules don’t explicitly require supervisors to check body camera footage after they find a “deviation in the comments of [an officer’s] report,” and until recently, the report said, the department’s computer system couldn’t track whether such a review had been done. The report said the department should consider studying the “feasibility” of adding to the workload of patrol supervisors, who are already tasked with the “voluminous work of reviewing [videos] ... for Use of Force and Pursuit Investigations and Complaint Intakes.”