LAPD Outfitting Every Officer With Body Cams

They're now the largest police department to have body cameras on its officers.

ByABC News
October 24, 2015, 11:16 AM

— -- For LAPD officers, dealing with suspects on the streets is routine.

But the images you’re seeing are not.

Over the past month, the LAPD has become the largest police department in the nation to deploy body cameras on all its patrol officers —- 7,000 of them.

“I think it will change all of law enforcement,” Chief Charlie Beck told ABC News about the implementation of the cams. “The LAPD is the biggest agency that is doing this. But it won’t be long before all cops will do this. This is going to become a common piece of equipment for law enforcement. The question will be not if you have them but why don’t you have them?”

Over the past few years, body cameras have become a hot button issue nationwide. For example, a video showed a reserve deputy allegedly mistake his gun for his Taser in Oklahoma City, with fatal results. The reserve deputy is facing second-degree manslaughter charges. He said it was all a terrible accident.

But perhaps the most publicized example related to body cams is a video showing a Cincinnati police officer shooting Samuel DuBose to death during a traffic stop.

Officer Ray Tensing told other officers right after the incident that he needed to protect himself. However, the video showed a different story. Investigators concluded that Tensing was never in danger. He was fired from the department and charged with murder.

Tensing has pleaded not guilty to the charges and his lawyer said the officer was "crucified" without all of the evidence being known.

Despite these examples, advocates say the cameras probably absolved more cops than they condemned.

“I think it shows that we believe in what we do enough to put it on film,” said Beck.

Taser, the number one seller of body cameras, had seen sales surge more than 154 percent in just a year—over 53,000 of these cameras are being buckled into police utility belts across the country.

But some officers worry that the cameras could be a potentially dangerous distraction.

“What if there is an active shooter in front of me and I’m thinking about [the body cam] instead of my gun?” asked LAPD Officer Paris Archundia. "That's the only issue I have right now with this."

The LAPD believes the cameras could protect its officers in the field and in court.