LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Eighty LAPD officers on Monday received body cameras to record their interactions with the public, making Los Angeles the largest city in the country to begin using the technology.
At 6 a.m., LAPD's Mission Area officers were the first of three LAPD divisions to receive training on how to use the cameras. Mission officers patrol Arleta, Sylmar, North Hills, Mission Hills and Panarama City.
The cameras are relatively easy to use, LAPD Sgt. Dan Gomez said. They're activated by pushing a center button twice.
For the next two weeks, officers will train on the job while wearing the cameras, which can record up to five and a half hours of video. Officers will then upload the video to a cloud storage space for long-term storage.
Supporters say the cameras will bring transparency to the department and help reveal crucial information during police investigations.
Still, the cameras have also drawn criticism from some activists concerned that the material will not be made available to the public through public records requests.
"If the department just says, 'We've investigated, We've looked at the body camera footage and it exonerates the officer,' that's still basically at the end of the day just saying, 'Trust us,'" said Peter Bibring of the ACLU Southern California.
The cameras will be used during virtually all enforcement activities, but will not be used when officers speak with victims about sensitive crimes such as rape, or when interviewing a fearful witness, the LAPD said.
The rollout is part of an effort from Mayor Eric Garcetti to outfit the entire 7,000-officer department with body cameras. He recently called for a $10 million plan to do so.
Earlier this year, the City Council approved a budget to pay for half of the funding needed to purchase body cameras for the entire department. Officials are now applying for federal grants to help pay for the remaining camera costs. The cameras issued to officers on Monday were donated through the Los Angeles Police Foundation.
Gomez said the cameras -- in their first day of action -- already helped deescalate a situation when an officer explained to a citizen that their interaction was being recorded.
Newton Division officers will receive training with the cameras on Sept. 15, and officers with the Central Traffic and Specialized Divisions are scheduled to receive training on Sept. 28. About 860 officers will have body cameras by the end of next month.
All LAPD officers are expected to be wearing the cameras by the end of next year.
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