Tampering was to avoid being monitored
Los Angeles police officers tampered with voice recording equipment in dozens of patrol cars to avoid being monitored while on duty, according to records and interviews reported recently. An inspection by Los Angeles Police Department investigators found about half of the estimated 80 cars in one South L.A. patrol division were missing antennas, which help capture what officers say in the field. The antennas in at least 10 more cars in nearby divisions had also been removed, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck and other top officials learned of the problem last summer but chose not to investigate which officers were responsible, according to The Times. Rather, the officials issued warnings against continued meddling and put checks in place to account for antennas at the start and end of each patrol shift. Members of the Police Commission, which oversees the department, were not briefed about the problem until months later.
In interviews with The Times, some commissioners said they were alarmed by the officers' attempts to conceal what occurred in the field, as well as the failure of department officials to come forward when the problem first came to light. Beck said there was no deliberate attempt to keep the commission in the dark, The Times reported. The cameras, which turn on automatically whenever an officer activates the car's emergency lights and sirens or can be activated manually, are used to record traffic stops and other encounters that occur in front of the vehicle.
Officers also wear small transmitters on their belts that relay their voices back to the antennas in the patrol car. Regardless of whether they are in front of the camera, officers' voices can be recorded hundreds of yards away from the car, Sgt. Dan Gomez, a department expert on the recording devices, told The Times.