Los Angeles Cops Want $18 Million for Surveillance Software and Snacks

The 'police reform' proposal has been criticized by local activists, who see it as another money grab after last summer's uprisings.
September 29, 2021, 4:06pm
Two LAPD officers.
Mel Melcon / Contributor

The LAPD has filed a massive proposal requesting more than $18 million in budget increases in order to pay for surveillance programs, bullets, and … snacks.

The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition released a letter on Monday blasting the 183-page report. The proposal requests nearly $18.44 million to support many of the things that the community has spent recent years protesting. The letter, which was co-signed by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles, describes the LAPD’s list of demands as a “disgusting insult to hundreds of thousands of people who took the streets last summer." 

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In the proposed budget, the LAPD requested $2 million to hire people to monitor social media accounts using a surveillance system that reportedly provides a “more holistic background on target subjects.” The system is already being used by the Major Crimes Division, but ten more licenses for other units would cost the city $450,000. This request also comes just weeks after it was revealed that LAPD officers are directed to collect and store social media handles when stopping civilians.

“It is an expansion of more tools to unleash violence on people, all under the guise of trying to build [a] relationship and trust with the community,” Hamid Khan, campaign coordinator for the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, told Motherboard.

The proposal also suggests needing funds to build “an automatic speech recognition system, or other efficient system, for [body-worn video] footage to allow the department to facilitate the review of footage”—in other words, using biometric surveillance systems with their body cameras, which would violate California law and could easily be used against L.A. citizens, the coalition’s letter warns. But the report claims this system would be used for “improving officer communication.”

According to Khan, much of the report uses language about increased training and sensitivity to mask the police's attempts at expanding surveillance and firepower. “It doesn't reflect the sentiments of the community at all,” he said.

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Of the $12.5 million requested for additional training and overtime, only $338,000 was requested for hiring people to work in community outreach. 

The proposal even requests $100,000 for emergency snacks that officers can take on the go—presumably while attending protests. 

The LA Board of Police Commissioners held a meeting on Tuesday in which 45 minutes were allotted for public comment before they went into a closed session to vote on the budget reforms. 

“Reform means nothing. Stop taking up our money. We need money for our resources in our communities for housing, health care, education, mental health services,” one resident said during the budget meeting.

On Tuesday, the board unanimously voted to approve the report’s recommendations. LAPD Assistant Chief Dominic Choi clarified that these recommendations will still have to be requested and approved for next year’s budget. 

The report is a culmination of recommendations put forth by multiple groups including the LAPD, the Board of Police Commissioners, and an advisory committee that reviewed the LAPD’s procedures. The board requested they provide a detailed report on the recommendations that were “deemed appropriate” and their feasibility.

Stop LAPD Spying Coalition accused the LAPD of trying to get severe budget reforms passed with little oversight. According to the coalition, the report was submitted late Friday afternoon, just one business day ahead of Tuesday’s vote. This gave little time for the community to provide input on the proposal. 

"This implementation plan includes several proposals that will expand the police spending and harms that our communities keep protesting," the letter reads. “They’re trying to use their violence last summer to win $18.44 million in permanent new resources and spy powers.”