On Wednesday, the LA City Council approved a nearly $60 million plan to equip 7,000 Los Angeles police officers with body-worn cameras.
The city will enter into a five-year agreement with Taser International Inc. to the tune of $31.2 million in equipment (including 4,400 cameras) and services. Another $23.7 million will go to Sprint for phones and data, and 4.3 million will be earmarked for what the Public Safety Committee Report designates as “infrastructure.” (The LAPD will also use a $1 million grant from the US Department of Justice, $3.1 million in unspent fiscal year 2015-2016 program funding, and $7 million from the 2016-2017 adopted budget.)
Once the body cams are implemented, the LAPD will be the largest department in the nation to attach cameras to its officers. About 860 officers are already wearing cameras because of an earlier pilot program.
Four times per year, the LAPD will also be required to report back on the status of camera implementation, along with a cost-benefit analysis.
KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has more on the body cam plan. Here’s a clip:
Originally, L.A. Mayor Garcetti had promised to have cameras on LAPD officers by the end of the year to improve accountability by both police and citizens, and provide evidence in criminal trials. City council members, however, balked at the price tag and approval was delayed six months.
A study commissioned by the council and unveiled Tuesday predicted eventual cost savings from body cameras. Justice and Security Strategies, the consultant commissioned for the report, said LAPD can expect to pay less in litigation costs after body cameras roll out, since they could absolve officers accused of misconduct, and deter use of force by officers.
The plan includes a $31 million contract with Taser International, which will supply the cameras, uploading equipment and storage. The rest of the money will go to things like extra LAPD staff to review and manage the footage.
Garcetti hailed the decision.
“Today’s action by the City Council is an investment in my vision of a Los Angeles Police Department that leads in transparency and accountability — values that protect officers and everyday Angelenos, and that are fundamental to policing in the 21st century,” Garcetti said in a statement. “This is a historic moment for the LAPD, and I am proud of the leadership shown by everyone who played a part in getting us to this day.”
US SUPREMES VOTE TO ALLOW EVIDENCE FOUND AFTER UNLAWFUL STOPS
In a 5-3 decision on Monday, the US Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement officers can use evidence obtained during illegal stops in courts, if the searches were conducted after the officers found out that the defendants had outstanding arrest warrants.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a scathing dissent, arguing that the ruling would disproportionately impact people of color. “This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification and check it for outstanding traffic warrants — even if you are doing nothing wrong,” she wrote.
In the case, Utah v. Strieff, Salt Lake City narcoticts detective Douglas Fackrell unlawfully stopped Edward Strieff based on an anonymous tip about “narcotics activity.” The check Fackrell ran on Strieff turned up a warrant for a traffic violation. When Fackrell arrested and searched Strieff, he found meth and drug paraphernalia. The justices ruled that the drug evidence does not have to be suppressed, but can be used as evidence in court.
“The officer illegally stopped Strieff and immediately ran a warrant check,” said Sotomayor in her dissent. “The officer’s discovery of a warrant was not some intervening surprise that he could not have anticipated.”
Sotomayor pointed out that according to recent Department of Justice statistics, 16,000 of Ferguson, Missouri’s population of 21,000 had outstanding warrants.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg joined most of Sotomayor’s dissent, as well as Justice Elena Kagan’s separate dissent.
The New York Times’ Adam Liptak has more on the ruling. Here’s a clip:
The question for the justices was whether the drugs must be suppressed given the unlawful stop or whether they could be used as evidence given the arrest warrant.
“Officer Fackrell was at most negligent,” Justice Thomas wrote, adding that “there is no evidence that Officer Fackrell’s illegal stop reflected flagrantly unlawful police misconduct.”
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the majority opinion.
In a dissent that cited W. E. B. Du Bois, James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates, Justice Sotomayor said the court had vastly expanded police power.
“The court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights,” she wrote. “Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification and check it for outstanding traffic warrants — even if you are doing nothing wrong.
“If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay,” she continued, “courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting you on the warrant.”
Justice Sotomayor added that many people were at risk. Federal and state databases show more than 7.8 million outstanding warrants, she wrote, “the vast majority of which appear to be for minor offenses.”
NOTEWORTHY CRIMINAL JUSTICE-RELATED CALIFORNIA LEGISLATIVE UPDATES
AB 2298, a bill to notify people included on California’s gang database, CalGang, passed out of the Senate Public Safety Committee, and has been re-referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations. The bill passed through the Assembly earlier this month.
People who admit to law enforcement officers that they are gang members or who have gang-related tattoos are added to the database, but associating with known gang members and wearing clothing that might be gang-related also sends people into the CalGang database.
The bill also gives Californians the right to challenge their inclusion in the database, and removes people from the list who have been free of gang-related convictions for at least three years.
Advocates say the vague criteria often have the effect of penalizing people of color for living in the wrong neighborhood.
KAMALA HARRIS BACKS BILL TO DRASTICALLY LIMIT SOLITARY CONFINEMENT FOR KIDS, AND ANOTHER TO EXPAND VOTING RIGHTS
On Monday California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced her support of a bill that would ensure that eligible inmates with felony convictions keep their right to vote while in jail (but not prison), as well as while under county supervision (but not parole).
“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and society, and yet for too long we have stripped certain individuals of that right,” AG Harris said.
And on Tuesday, Harris endorsed a bill to place significant limits on when, why, and for how long California kids can be locked in solitary. The bill, authored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), would block guards from using isolation as a punishment, for convenience’s sake, or as a way to coerce kids, and would limit “room confinement” to four hours. Confinement would only become an option after other, less restrictive options had been exhausted (except when using those alternatives would put kids or staff in danger).
“Subjecting young people to prolonged periods of isolated confinement is cruel, inhumane and counterproductive to rehabilitation,” Harris said. “This unnecessary and punitive practice undermines the goal of helping this vulnerable young population become healthy and productive members of our society.”
Harris endorsed two other criminal justice reform bills aimed at reducing recidivism. The first, AB 1597, by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey), would allow inmates who haven’t been sentenced yet to participate in rehabilitative programs and earn good time credits toward a future sentence. The inmates’ use of these tools would not be admissible as evidence of their guilt.
The second bill, SB 1157 by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), would ensure that local detention facilities using video visitation would also allow a number of in-person visits for inmates, as well.