Screenshot of bidding projects with the city of Long Beach, including body cameras for police officers.
The bidding for body worn camera equipment for the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) closed Thursday, moving the department one step closer to launching a pilot program meant to decrease the number of use-of-force incidents, officials said.
In a recent interview with the Post, Cmdr. Paul LeBaron explained what police officials were looking for from companies and the next steps in the program.
To begin with, the department took a unique approach in how it chose to purchase the equipment, compared to what most police departments do.
“Usually, they [police departments] test different vendors and then they make a decision to go with it,” LeBaron said.
“We wanted to make sure that this was something that was fully transparent. People knew what we were looking for and we’d give everybody an opportunity,” added LeBaron.
The equipment and program is not modeled after any police department, LeBaron said.
LBPD officials will choose a company that can provide an all-encompassing system, such as cameras, data storage and auxiliary equipment.
The department aims to purchase at least 50 cameras that have the capability to mount on multiple locations, such as an officer’s head, glasses, collar and belt.
With the bidding now closed, program heads will look at all the bids to consider the overall cost, the equipment itself and the security of the data storage.
Fiber optics will also have to be in place in order to download the amount of data that will be captured.
Once the equipment is secured, LeBaron said the pilot program should begin later this year, and expects it to run from about six months to a year.
A select group of officers in a select area will wear the cameras to “work out the bugs,” LeBaron said.
“We’re going to make sure the cameras are going to be deployed in a well-balanced manner so we can capture everything,” he said.
Researchers from Cal State Long Beach’s criminal justice department and The Urban Institute—who are collaborators in the pilot program—will also have a say in the direction of the program, stated LeBaron.
According to CSULB criminal justice professor Aili Malm, she and two researchers from the institute will study the effectiveness of police body cameras.
“The overall goal of this study is to test the current assumptions about the benefits of cameras, as well as produce operational knowledge on the ideal and reasonable use of these cameras from the perspective of police decision-makers and accountability-minded community members,” Malm said.
The data to evaluate the body camera program will come from administrative records, coding of video footage and community surveys, she added.
The study will be funded through a grant the institute received from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
CSULB will also conduct a cost/benefit analysis of the Long Beach body camera trial, said Malm.
In an April article, LeBaron said he expected citizen complaints regarding cops to decrease, as other agencies have recorded decreases. He also anticipated a decrease in use-of-force incidents as officers will be held accountable for the moments the camera captures.
According to Malm, the study is in current partnership with police departments in Anaheim, California and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
LeBaron said the department still has to create a policy to establish rules on when police officers can and cannot turn off cameras and how to deal with people who may object to them.
If things go well with the department’s choice of vendor and product, LeBaron expects to increase the department’s purchase to outfit all patrol officers.
Four officer-involved shootings have happened in Long Beach so far this year, two resulting in fatalities—including a 19-year-old Long Beach resident fatally shot April 23 and a 20-year-old Woodland Hills resident fatally shot May 27.