In an attempt to ensure more police accountability and enhance community trust, the Long Beach City Council voted to start a year-long pilot program that will require Long Beach police officers to wear body cameras.
All eight present council members at the City Council meeting Jan. 5 unanimously passed the program, which will start in March.
“Our objective for employing the cameras are officer and citizen accountability, reduce injuries to our officers, reduce citizen complaints, reduce use of force and enhance investigations,” Police Chief Robert Luna said at the meeting.
The LBPD organized an internal committee to research other departments that have implemented body cameras and find out more information to make sure the cameras helped officers and communities.
The cameras will be used as an additional safety precaution for police officers and community members.
“When officers go out there and do stuff and they know they have cameras on, obviously the officers are going to behave accordingly, and we expect them to follow the rules whether they have cameras on or not,” Commander Paul LeBaron said. “On the other side one of the things we’ve seen is that when officers are wearing cameras, the citizens that they may come in contact with tend to be held more accountable; they don’t get so aggressive, and they are more cooperative to listen to the officer’s’ directions.”
The pilot program will provide 48 officers in the West Division with cameras at first.
“If things go the way we expect them to and if funding is available,” LeBaron said. “The plan would be to provide all officers with cameras in the patrol bureau.”
The University Police Department has been looking to implement body-worn cameras for its officers for about a year.
“We, the University Police, weren’t just expressing interest in this because the Long Beach Police just got authorization to do it,” CSULB Police Lieutenant Richard Goodwin said. “We had started the implementation of testing of body cameras well before this was announced.”
Goodwin said he sees the initiative being a benefit for the Long Beach community and its residents, which includes thousands of students.
“This is beneficial for everyone concerned,” Goodwin said. “The purpose of having a body camera worn by a police officer on duty is quite simply to record the actions that are being taken by that officer. If such action become something of interest due to possibly use of force or lesser perhaps the actions of the officer or members of the public in encountering that officer become questionable, then having this recording not only of audio but visual are beneficial because it relays the story of what’s going on.”
The University Police has recording devices that are used when the officers are out on campus.
“Currently our officers deployed in the field carry audio recorders,” Goodwin said. “They can record audio of their encounters with the public, but having a visual picture is obviously better; as the saying goes ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’”
Long Beach resident Ryan Shimamoto believes that while it is great that the police decided to do that, it will be awhile before the public’s eye of excessive police violence quiets.
“I think it’s a great way for police to protect [not just] citizens but themselves as well,” Shimamoto said. “It’s a great start, but it will take time before the public thinks differently of police brutality.”