LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Los Angeles Police Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to release body camera and dashcam videos to the public going forward, reversing a policy that had been in place since the LAPD's officers were first equipped with the technology.
The momentous decision means footage will be released within 45 days of critical incidents involving the agency's officers. Such videos are often key pieces of evidence in cases where officers have used deadly force.
"This will go a long way to helping build public trust, and through a significant increase in transparency," said Commissioner Matthew Johnson.
The new policy includes video captured by patrol cars, surveillance cameras or cell phones, as well as a clause that will keep particular videos private if two commissioners and the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department deem that they should not be made public.
In June 2016, the Los Angeles City Council enacted a $59 million plan to equip more than 7,000 officers with devices.
The cameras capture "millions of hours of video," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck noted in remarks to reporters after the commission's vote.
"It doesn't always tell the whole story," Beck said. "Unfortunately, putting a camera on somebody's person is not the same as having a trained professional focus a camera objectively on an incident."
"It doesn't reveal as much as maybe we thought in the first place. I think sometimes the audio is more telling," the police chief added. "But as the technology improves, I think that we will get better and better-quality product."
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents LAPD officers was involved in drafting the policy and supports part of it, but still has some concerns. "We feel that it could taint the jury pool, seeing video before the investigative process is even complete, and we want everyone to have a fair, impartial case," said Jeretta Sandos, vice president of the league.
Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey agrees. In a statement, she said, "The police commission policy jeopardizes the justice process by exposing witnesses to video evidence before they are interviewed by our independent investigators. It will make seeking justice in these politically charged cases more difficult."