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LA Police Officers Suspected of Tampering With Their Monitoring Systems 322

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the watchers-hate-being-watched dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An internal audit conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in March revealed that 'dozens of the [voice] transmitters worn by officers in Southeast Division were missing or damaged.' In the summer of 2013, this same division was found to have mysteriously lost 45% of the antennae placed on their cars to pick up the signals sent by their voice transmitters. The Southeast Division of the LAPD covers an area that has 'historically been marred by mistrust and claims of officer abuse.' For decades, the LAPD had been closely monitored by the U.S. Department of Justice, but a federal judge in 2013 decided to end that practice after being assured by the LAPD and city officials that the LAPD sufficiently monitors itself via dash-cams and voice transmitters. A formal investigation is currently being conducted to determine whether or not police officers intentionally subverted mandatory efforts to monitor and record their patrols."
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LA Police Officers Suspected of Tampering With Their Monitoring Systems

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  • Easy fix (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @12:09PM (#46705427)

    For any officer found with damaged or missing recording equipment, suspend without pay or confine to desk jockey. Unacceptable to claim equipment is broken or doesn't work so the policy goes to the wayside.

    • Re:Easy fix (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @12:11PM (#46705443) Homepage

      Just deduct the repair bill from their pay. They'll soon start working.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by GrandCow (229565)

        The antennas on the car are probably less than $10. The voice transmitters are probably $50-100. If they only do an audit once a year, it's a small price to pay for someone that doesn't want their actions being monitored.

        • The article claims that they check the antennas before and after each shift, so they would know as soon as one was missing, and give the bill to whoever had the car during that shift.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            But they don't have to damage their device every day. Only on the days they're planning on pocketing some money from a drug bust. That's still a low cost.
        • by number17 (952777)
          The price to pay is to install and verify that it is working, not the equipment itself.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Carcass666 (539381)

        Just deduct the repair bill from their pay. They'll soon start working.

        Good luck with that given the power of their union.

        • If their union is so powerful, how come they're subject to routine monitoring in this way at work?

          It looks like the negative publicity from a not so great track record is exerting more pressure than anyone's union right now.

      • Re:Easy fix (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @01:08PM (#46706029)

        Just deduct the repair bill from their pay. They'll soon start working.

        Seems like it would be more effective if judges held police responsible for proper functioning of their recording devices, and gave the benefit of the doubt to those that accuse the police of wrongdoing when the mandated surveillance equipment that could prove the allegations was mysteriously "out of order".

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          Judges are absolutly a major problem with our police force. The very idea that they take a police officer's word over non-police officer's word sets up a massive inbalance in our legal system that much of our police problems stems from.
    • Re:Easy fix (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @12:30PM (#46705639) Homepage Journal

      For any officer found with damaged or missing recording equipment, suspend without pay or confine to desk jockey. Unacceptable to claim equipment is broken or doesn't work so the policy goes to the wayside.

      I'd throw tampering and obstruction charges in on the second offense.

      If anything, cops need to be held to the letter of the law more strictly than those of us who are not tasked with enforcing it.

      • Why wait for the second offense?
      • by Ravaldy (2621787)

        My argument would be more along the lines of: It's ok for them to be given the power they need to do their job as long as they are accountable. Monitoring systems ensures there is no abuse.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Yakasha (42321)

        I'd throw tampering and obstruction charges in on the second offense.

        Ah, I see you're new to the whole "filing charges" thing. The correct filing should include (but is absolutely not limited to):

        Evidence tampering, hindering an investigation, obstruction of justice, vandalizing government property, theft, fraud, abusing authority, circumventing electronic security, computer hacking, assault, providing material support to terrorists, and a "conspiracy to commit" of every one of those charges.

    • Re:Easy fix (Score:5, Interesting)

      by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @01:02PM (#46705947)
      The problem with closing loopholes isn't figuring out what needs to be done. It's usually obvious: you close the fucking loophole.

      The problem is usually actually doing it without giving up more ground than you get. Law enforcement anywhere tends to think that oversight is a conspiracy to aid the bad guys, and resists thinking that they themselves are or even can be the bad guys. LAPD in particular [wikipedia.org]. That mindset goes back a long time and is undoubtedly entrenched at every level. Any moves which actually bring the LAPD under reasonable oversight will be resisted by damn near everyone.

      With campaign finance reform, that's resisted for similar reasons, but there's competition working for it: a politician who says he wants to reform things might be hurt by it, but so will his opponents. With law enforcement, reform isn't really beneficial to anyone since it just hurts everyone and no one gets ahead by enacting it.
      • by meerling (1487879)
        LAPD are the 'bad guys'. Just look at their track record. Admittedly, there are a lot of good guys in the LAPD, but there are way too many scum. Those that do the illegal actions, and those that stand by and don't stop or otherwise report them for their wrongdoing.

        Yes, those that do nothing are bad guys as well since it's their job to stop the illegal activities, especially those of other enforcement officers that are supposed to be stopping crime in a legal fashion rather than performing crimes. (Let the p
    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      Police officers share cars. Unless you inspect the vehicle at the beginning and end of every shift there is no way of knowing who ripped the antenna off. I would also bet that there are a fair number of antennas ripped off by non-police officers. Police cars are an easy targets for vandals. I wonder how many other antennas are removed from squad cars. If it is always just the voice antenna it would be an issue. Even then, maybe the voice antenna is just easier to remove and non-police vandals target it more

    • by taustin (171655)

      So any cop you don't like, like the one who is going to testify against you, is easy to get rid of by just braking the antenna off on his car? Man, that's just a brilliant plan!

    • To make it fair, have a checklist before they roll out the door that includes verifying that the transmitter and receiver and present and functional. Failure to follow the checklist and report non-functional equipment results in the above. This way legitimate breakages aren't punished (and therefor hidden) and you also shift it from a "we don't trust you" to a "you didn't follow procedure". While the fact is that you don't trust them, morale will suffer less from the latter than the former.

  • Should be punished (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @12:10PM (#46705437)
    There should be strict rules in place that any equipment malfunctions or damage must be reported as soon as reasonably possible, or sever penalties will result. Of course, the police union would fight this tooth and nail.
    • by swb (14022) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @12:28PM (#46705615)

      How do they know it is malfunctioning? It wouldn't surprise me if the system was designed to be tamper-resistant, so they may not have even read-only access to the data collected so they can't even sanity check if it is working.

      Maybe an obviously broken antenna would indicate that it wasn't working, but I would imagine that might be assuming a lot about their technical knowledge and they may reasonably assume that some minor damage to an antenna doesn't mean its broken, based on experience with other antennas on other equipment.

      I'm sure there's some deliberate malice going on here on some level, but then again, making them wholly responsible for the ongoing technical functionality of equipment they have little or no control or diagnostic ability or skill to manage would be reasonably objectionable.

      There's also the unintended consequence of overly-severe penalties, one of which may be over-reporting potential damage due to the risks of not reporting it. The last thing you want is half the cars in a sector sitting in the motor pool and the officers unavailable for calls because they don't know if their widgets are broken.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Apart from that there is not reason to go hard on the police officers. There is a simple social solution when problems like this arise.
        Split them up. It works on bullies, criminal gangs and neo-nazis.

        Relocate them to cities that doesn't have this problem and make sure that none of them works with each other.
        Once they are partnered up with honest people and only honest people the undesired behavior will go away.
        After a couple of years the can be brought back.

        That way the problem disappears without the need t

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          Apart from that there is not reason to go hard on the police officers. There is a simple social solution when problems like this arise.
          Split them up. It works on bullies, criminal gangs and neo-nazis.

          Relocate them to cities that doesn't have this problem and make sure that none of them works with each other.
          Once they are partnered up with honest people and only honest people the undesired behavior will go away.
          After a couple of years the can be brought back.

          That way the problem disappears without the need to break necks or even prove anything.

          -- methane-fueled

          Putting even the most honest and trustworthy people into a system of power doesn't guarantee that there will be no abuses -- even honest people abuse their power [prisonexp.org].

          But knowing that someone is looking over your shoulder at all times with surveillance *can* reduce abuses since a cop can't claim "He threatened me!" if no threat was captured on the surveillance device.

        • This is the preferred solution. After all that training, once an officer proves his eagerness to randomly break a few legs, it just won't do to let them go. That good LAPD conditioning has been disseminated throughout the country as these "rogue" cops take their skills and fucked-up attitudes out to rural America, the better to squelch any nascent bonds developing with the innocent citizens they intend to "protect and serve".

      • by arth1 (260657)

        There's also the unintended consequence of overly-severe penalties, one of which may be over-reporting potential damage due to the risks of not reporting it. The last thing you want is half the cars in a sector sitting in the motor pool and the officers unavailable for calls because they don't know if their widgets are broken.

        No, that's not the last thing you want. The last thing you want are responders who beat up people based on whether they like them, or lie about what suspects said and ruin lives.

        I think this can be remedied by having them test the gear every time they enter active status. Not "potential damage", but actual testing.
        If pilots have to check their gear before flying, I don't think it's too much to ask that armed officers do the same. They are responsible for people's lives too.

        • by sjames (1099)

          Simple answer, if the recorder isn't working, any complaint against the officer will be presumed true. Then make sure the officers have a way to test the equipment. You can bet that they will.

      • Really? Run this when the cop clocks out:

        SELECT count(id) FROM voicelog WHERE copid = 123 AND date = Now()
        If it isn't greater than 0, flag it.

        If they went to the trouble to make it tamper resistant, they probably went through the trouble to write a basic script to test it was reporting the data correctly. I do this on stuff that is way less important than tracking notoriously corrupt cops.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Thanshin (1188877)

      Actually no, as you'd know if you had studied the subject, the law does not apply to the police.

      As a mnemonic rule, imagine they were oddly dressed politicians, or very humble rich people.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @12:11PM (#46705441)
    Anyone remember the police beating case in Maryland where the dash cams of ALL SEVEN police cars on the scene simultaneously malfunctioned? Accountability is not a thing many officers appreciate.
  • by DigitAl56K (805623) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @12:16PM (#46705499)

    I wonder if the damage was reported and tracked over time, and if you could correlate this with who was assigned the equipment immediately prior? The results would probably paint a good heat map against the list of officers as to what subset was behind the damage.

  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @12:17PM (#46705505)

    It is possible people are vandalizing the cars (in general and though the public would vandalize ALL the antennas, not just one). The simple solution is make the officers report any damage and fill out paperwork indicating the cause. If they go a day with broken equipment unreported they're suspended without pay for day the first time with a day added per occurrence and fired after 5. If it's a repeated occurrence with an officer they should be monitored in secret by IA to observe if the officer is doing the damage themselves and if they are they should be fired and prosecuted for damaging government property. If the cars are being vandalized by the public they need better antennas that are vandal resistant.

    • by Gramie2 (411713)

      I suppose it's theoretically possible that vandals are risking arrest to remove -- and not break or damage -- a single antenna (out of the several on a cruiser), the one antenna that could embarrass or implicate officers in inappropriate/illegal behaviour, but it's ludicrous to suggest that it is likely or even probable.

    • by GrumpySteen (1250194) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @01:37PM (#46706279)

      It is possible people are vandalizing the cars

      Sure, but... "new rules were put in place requiring officers to document that both antennas were in place at the beginning and end of each shift. To guard against officers removing the antennas during their shifts, Tingirides said he requires patrol supervisors to make unannounced checks on cars."

      "Since the new protocols went into place, only one antenna has been found missing,"

      As soon as it became likely that the vandalism be caught, the vandalism suddenly dropped to almost zero despite the fact that only the officers knew of the change.

      So no... it's not possible that the public is vandalizing the cars.

  • The Law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bayoudegradeable (1003768) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @12:18PM (#46705513)
    Ha. Please find me someone with more contempt and disdain for the law than.... law enforcement! Shocked they would be breaking rules. What's next?
    • by Solandri (704621)
      Politicians. Just about every law passed by Congress has a clause at the end stating that Congress is exempt from it. That's always struck me as a perverse loophole which could be horribly exploited. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

      Speaking of which, if there's one group of public employees who should be video recorded in all their daily activities and meetings, it's politicians. If all their meetings with lobbyists were required by law to be recorded and streamed to the public, thin
  • Futile? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @12:24PM (#46705569)

    From TFA: "Because cars in the Southeast Division had been equipped with cameras since 2010 and different shifts of officers use the same car each day, officials decided an investigation into the missing antennas would have been futile, according to Smith and Capt. Phil Tingirides, the commanding officer of the Southeast Division."

    I do not believe that this is possible. Given the number of officers, and the number of damaged cars, and the number of undamaged cars, and the log book, most of us could tell you who the culprits are before we get through our first 16oz cup of coffee.

    • by PRMan (959735)

      I used to work at an auto parts store where someone was stealing from the registers. Since we had just hired a guy back after going to jail (presumably for something he didn't do), all eyes were on him. It was a slow night, so my co-worker and I took a look at the shift logs and who worked 1-2 shifts before the money was found missing (because it had safe drops, you couldn't always tell the next shift).

      It took us about 20 minutes to find the culprit. It was totally easy. So this is complete BS.

    • Oh, I believe it is possible. Because I believe that it was designed to make it difficult to determine who was responsible for the missing antennas.
    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Better than that I would think - if these devices are being used to continuously monitor the cops for their own and the public protection, then the data is being recorded somewhere. Break the data link and the recording stops (or devolves to static). So, go back and see what the last thing recorded was, that should narrow the list of suspects immensely.

  • I'm shocked, shocked that the LAPD would try to hide their behavior so they could keep acting like asshats.

  • Not that the LAPD is playing fast and loose with the equipment (okay that this level of poor behavior is being allowed to continue is inconceivable) but, that the equipment isn't self monitoring and reporting. I mean really, they are under the watchful (and apparently sleepy) eye of the DoJ and no one thought to add a monitoring feature? The police have some of the most wired cars around and the tech to push or pull, at least, daily status reports on the health and activity of the recording systems wasn't

  • Easy solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @12:47PM (#46705799)
    Here is a simple rule. If a cop doesn't have an active recording device then he isn't a cop; he is just some guy waving a gun and threatening people. Also invalidate any evidence that a "cop" gathers while not on video and audio. So if a cop searches someone and "finds" drugs and there is no video then it didn't happen; that combined with the stop and frisk being considered a mugging these cops would be polishing the lenses and making sure the equipment was in perfect working order.
    • by Immerman (2627577)

      A fine proposal - though perhaps some allowance should be made in case the equipment is legitimately damaged in action - at which point the cop is still a cop for the duration of the current action, but all his claims are to be regarded with the same level of suspicion as any other eye-witness.

      Combine that with system health self-reporting and you should be good to go. A flashing warning alongside the car's overheat light? An immediate automated warning call from headquarters to their radio? It shouldn't

  • I know that if I were to remove an antenna from a police cruiser that I would be in jail, quickly, likely bruised and beaten during the trip too. Why should it be different for the officers? Criminal vandalism charges, destruction of public property, obstruction, etc. etc. let the charges flow. Oh, wait, these are police, they're never (or at least very rarely) convicted of criminal charges for their actions, sorry for wasting your time....
  • And Absolute Power is kinda nifty...

    It's amazing what happens to some people when they get a taste of power over others. Little wonder why there are cases of extortion and racketeering that happen by police officers in many cities. Once they get a taste, they're hooked, and it escalates.

    Why is it that many an off-duty police officer acts like a total a$$-hat, but pops a badge out of their butt when confronted by the proper authority to curb such behavior? They carry on as if they are Allowed to do the thing

  • Fixed (Score:4, Informative)

    by jklovanc (1603149) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @01:17PM (#46706109)

    It seems to have been fixed:

    Instead, warnings went out at roll-call meetings throughout South Bureau, and new rules were put in place requiring officers to document that both antennas were in place at the beginning and end of each shift. To guard against officers removing the antennas during their shifts, Tingirides said he requires patrol supervisors to make unannounced checks on cars.
    "We took the situation very seriously. But because the chances of determining who was responsible was so low we elected to move on," Smith said, adding that it cost the department about $1,500 to replace all the antennas.
    Since the new protocols went into place, only one antenna has been found missing, Smith said.

  • Note to self... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DdJ (10790) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @01:19PM (#46706125) Homepage Journal

    ...do not rely on monitoring system that treats a complete lack of information as a complete absence of incidents.

  • As long as they can still hit the drive-thrus / fly-thrus, they'll be fine.
  • These law enforcement officers are experiencing the same thing we have been in the wake of the NSA documents. Being watched all the time is wrong even if you are doing nothing wrong.

    Anti-authoritarians think people should not be watched all the time, even though it would mean catching a few extra criminals. Law and order advocates think police should not be watched all the time, even though it would mean catching a few extra officers who abuse their position. If we believe that people intrinsically want to

    • by PPH (736903)

      There are two requirements driving the need for monitoring systems. One is to catch the occasional 'bad cop'. True, most officers are contentious and try to behave ethically. But this is the major drive behind most of these systems. The other requirement is evidence collection. In spite of whatever our law enforcement and judiciary systems claim, police officers make mistakes. Or they are in a hurry or pumped up on adrenalin and their observational powers are hindered. Having a camera/mic running provides a

  • Aren't the camera videos automatically uploaded when the vehicle returns at the end of shift or when they return to the station? When I was on juries with video evidence they explained how the chain of custody was maintained so we would believe it to be an accurate depiction of events. The video files are kept for a while of evidence, so it would seem to a simple matter to see when an antenna was broken by seeing when the video degraded. As a bonus, some videos are really funny and would be you tube hits

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