HACKENSACK, N.J.—There are more than four million people in Los Angeles that the Los Angeles Police Department is tasked with serving and many get their news and information from social media platforms and not as much from traditional news outlets. Reaching citizens on these platforms became a key goal for the LAPD, with the task falling primarily to the head of the Social Media Unit of the Media Relations Division, Sergeant Hector Guzman.
In the past, the LAPD had no method of its own to disseminate video of press conferences or emergency related alerts, instead needing to rely on local media outlets to help spread the word. The arrival of Public Information Director Josh Rubenstein—who came to the department from one of LA’s media outlets—set the goal to change that through live streaming.
At first, Guzman and his unit of officers would use their city-issued smartphones to stream video to platforms like Facebook Live or Periscope. However, Guzman quickly realized that there were a lot of limitations that came with a cell phone being the primary tool for live streaming.
“When it comes to streaming directly from a phone, you are limited in the video capability, you are limited in the audio capability—primarily the audio was a major factor,” said Guzman. “We were getting some not so positive feedback from the community that the audio wasn’t up to quality, the standards that they would expect from a major department like the LAPD.” Guzman also cited the department experienced connectivity issues with the cell phones.
Eventually, at press conferences and other events that were covered by local media, Guzman began noticing many crews utilizing LiveU gear to handle their streaming. After testing the equipment out for himself, Guzman drafted a proposal for a LiveU Solo system and a Canon XA35 camera to ditch the cell phones and take the LAPD’s live streaming capabilities to another level. The proposal was granted by the William H. Parker Los Angeles Police Foundation, which supports the LAPD with technology that’s not typically available through the normal budget.
A big selling point for Guzman on the LiveU gear was its ease of use.
“The officers that work in my unit—that’s myself and four officers—we’re not the most techie people in the world,” he said. “We’re not trained professional videographers, per se, we’re police officers. So we needed something that was simple to use. [The LiveU Solo was] something I was able to train officers in my unit literally like in five minutes how to use the equipment and they were up and running.”
And that’s just what the LAPD has been doing since receiving the new equipment in October of 2017. Guzman and his department are averaging two live streams a week of pre-planned or spontaneous press conferences, as well as other events, to its 130,000 followers on Facebook Live and 93,000 followers on Twitter. The new live streaming capabilities were able to provide critical evacuation, road closures and additional information during the brush fires that impacted Southern California last fall. They also have been used to live stream recruit graduations from the LAPD Academy so that families of graduating recruits not in the area can celebrate in the achievement.
The chief goal of all of these live streams, per Guzman, is transparency. “Obviously our media partners do a great job covering the story, but we want to be able to give the community the entire press conference, the entire story from beginning to end.”
Following the success of live streaming with the LiveU technology, Guzman has hopes that his department will be able to expand their capabilities in the near future. Some areas of improvement could come by upgrading to more powerful units, like the LU600, or being able to live stream from multiple cameras and simulcasting feeds to multiple platforms.
Now, Guzman says, other agencies looking to improve their live streaming capabilities are asking his department what they are using.