LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles Mayor Gil Garcetti on Tuesday announced a plan to equip 7,000 of the city’s police officers on the streets with body cameras, an ambitious initiative that comes amid nationwide protests over police killings of unarmed black men.
The proposal would expand a privately funded, $1.5 million pilot project launched in January to provide officers on foot patrol in downtown Los Angeles with cameras to test.
The push for body cameras, which supporters say can help avert or resolve cases of officer misconduct when there is conflicting evidence, has gained momentum across the nation, and President Barack Obama has called for spending $263 million in federal money to train police and equip them with the cameras.
“Out on the street, things aren’t always clear-cut. These cameras will help law enforcement and the public alike find the truth - and truth is essential to the trust between the LAPD and the community, which has been a key factor in lowering crime to record lows,” Garcetti said in announcing the program.
“I want to make sure LAPD is on the cutting edge when it comes to crime suppression and constitutional policing,” he said.
Funding for the 7,000 cameras will be included in Garcetti’s proposed 2015 budget, which must be approved by the city council. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has said he supports the plan.
With nearly 10,000 officers, the LAPD is the third-largest municipal U.S. police department, after New York City and Chicago.
After police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August, a grand jury declined to indict him as witnesses gave varied accounts of the shooting.
But the cameras have limitations. The chokehold death of Eric Garner in July was captured by a bystander’s cell phone camera, but a grand jury still did not indict the New York police officers involved.
Oakland, California and neighboring Berkeley have been the site of demonstrations for more than a week over the Missouri and New York cases.
Protesters chained themselves to the doors of police headquarters in Oakland on Monday, prompting several arrests, and one demonstrator scaled a flagpole to hang a “Black Lives Matter” banner in front of the building.
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Eric Walsh