Long Beach Police Department officers will have to wait a little longer before they join the ranks of other officers across that nation who have been equipped with body cameras. The Long Beach City Council pulled the item from its agenda Tuesday night, citing the need for more time to adjust issues with the vendor the city has partnered with.
Mayor Robert Garcia said the item is expected to be back before the council within the next few weeks, after the issues are ironed out. The council was set to approve a contract with Dell Marketing LP, a Texas-based company, and sub-contractor Utility, Inc. of Georgia, to provide body cameras, software support and cloud storage for its department’s pilot program. The two were deemed to have provided the “best value” for the expected camera and fiber optic needs.
The Body Worn Camera Pilot Program will equip 100 patrol officers with cameras for testing in the field for a one-year period.
The contract is for roughly $200,000 annually with the option to renew for two more additional one-year periods. It will be funded by one-time funds worked into the fiscal budget for police department technological investments.
The delay puts off again what had been a long vetting process by the department that was initiated earlier this year. The move to incorporate the use of body cameras on officers was preempted by other large cities across the country adopting the policy, in the wake of a wave of viral videos showing police use of force incidents, and a public outcry for more transparency. Long Beach officials said in late April, after the Los Angeles Police Commission approved body cameras for its officers, that it was “fine tuning” its own pilot program.
Commander Paul LeBaron told the Post after LA’s announcement of its body camera adoption, that issues of privacy, cost and data infrastructure were important to the city’s process of developing its program. LeBaron said he believed the implementation of the program would lead to a decrease in citizen complaints against the department, reflective of a trend across other cities that have already adopted body cameras.
“We anticipate the [body camera program] is going to be very helpful,” LeBaron said. He said that “community members are willing to make a complaint against an officer when it’s their word against the other,” but are more reluctant when a camera is objectively capturing the exchange.
LeBaron outlined the department’s plans in June to hire a company that would be all-encompassing, providing the cameras, data storage infrastructure and any auxiliary equipment. He said he expected to expand the program to outfit every officer if things went well with the vendor the city eventually selected.
Once the program goes live in 2016, it will be part of a larger study by Cal State Long Beach’s criminal justice department and The Urban Institute that will incorporate multiple departments from around the country to assess the effectiveness of police body cameras. A cost-benefit analysis will be carried out by the team, one which could ultimately influence the future of the program in the city given the current budgetary constraints.
Long Beach will join other California cities like Oakland and San Diego whose officers are already wearing body cameras. However, nationally the group of large cities that has its officers wearing body cameras remains relatively small, with roughly 40 percent of the country’s 100 most populated cities having a program in place according to a report from Vocativ this month.
Above: File photo.