LA police sabotaged voice recorders designed to monitor their activity

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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An internal investigation within the Los Angeles Police Department revealed officers sabotaged personal voice recorders designed to monitor their field activity by disabling antennas attached to cameras inside cruisers.

“On an issue like this, we need to be brought in right away,” LAPD oversight Police Commission President Steve Soboroff told the LA Times. “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.”

The voice recorders worn on officers’ belts are linked to video cameras mounted in patrol cars, all of which switch on automatically when a cruiser’s siren and lights are activated. Sabotaging antennas has the potential to reduce the range of voice recorders by one-third.

Of the estimated 80 cars in one south L.A. patrol division, about half were missing antennas at the time the problem was discovered.

LAPD reportedly discovered the problem in summer 2013 but did not report it to Soboroff’s commission until months later. New rules have since gone into effect, and only one antenna disappeared afterward as a result.

Though part of the reason behind the implementation of the program was to protect officers from the one-sided recordings of citizens observing police conduct, the recent sabotages are another example of police push back against surveillance designed to protect both police departments and citizens.

A federal judge ended more than a decade of close monitoring of the LAPD by the U.S. Department of Justice last year in exchange for the department adopting safeguards against abuse of cruiser cameras and voice recorders, which are intended to capture everything an officer says.

The commission plans to have department officials answer questions about how they handled the issue publicly in a meeting later this month.

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