How L.A. Works: Body Cameras

The LAPD is testing 860 Taser AXON wearable recording devices in four divisions

In the wake of the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a plan last year to outfit 7,000 members of the LAPD with body cameras. Although such a step had been in the works for years, now the LAPD is testing 860 Taser AXON wearable recording devices in four divisions. The goal: to establish greater accountability for officers and civilians alike. Here, a focus on the tech.


Graphic by Comrade

1) The Lens
Each camera has a 130-degree, wide-angle lens with retina technology that allows for better resolution in low light and increased visibility at night. The LAPD looked at high-definition cameras but decided the longer upload times and larger memory and storage requirements weren’t worth it. This model is priced at $399.

2) The Placement
Designed with the LAPD’s various uniform styles in mind, the camera comes with several body attachment options, including a belt, a holster harness, and a buttonhole. Officers are wearing the cameras clipped to their shirts, front and center.

3) The Record Button
In its default setting, the camera constantly records and rerecords in a 30-second loop, even before an officer presses the button. Though California is a two-party consent state, permission isn’t required when gathering criminal evidence.

4) The On/Off Switch
Battery power typically lasts 12 hours (about the length of an officer’s shift), then gets recharged in a docking station at police headquarters for approximately four hours. There’s also an adapter for a squad car’s cigarette lighter. Once the battery dies (in about five years), the camera is replaced.

5) The Memory
The camera has an 8GB hard drive. Depending on the quality of the video it is set to record, it can shoot continuously for 4 to 13 hours. Video is encrypted and uploaded from the docking station to Taser’s cloud storage, a subscription service that will cost the LAPD slightly less than $100 a month per camera.

6) The Casing
The outer shell of the camera is made of rugged plastic, and the camera can hold up in high heat, humidity, and rain. Though reliable, these gadgets won’t put smartphones out of business. Video shot by nearby witnesses is considered valid evidence, and because the LAPD won’t make its footage public, the images that bystanders capture likely will be the primary material the public is permitted to see.