Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) got approval to begin recording and storing aerial footage of protests and other large gatherings from its helicopters.
Police said the new capacity would expand its “operational readiness” while activists and protestors described the step as unconstitutional government surveillance.
“This is the height of state repression and surveillance,” Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, was quoted as saying.
According to the report, the approval came through a unanimous Police Commission vote to accept a donation of $2,150 worth of recording equipment from the Los Angeles Police Foundation.
Los Angeles Police Foundation is a private philanthropic entity that has long bankrolled equipment desired by the LAPD but not budgeted for or prioritized by the city.
The LAPD did not respond to a request for comment late on Tuesday.
The development comes amid months of protests across different parts of the country after the May death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The protests, which have sometimes turned violent, have demanded racial equality and an end to police brutality.
At present, 10 LAPD helicopters are equipped with technology that allows for video to be transmitted to commanders on the ground but those feeds cannot be stored or recorded.
The new equipment will allow the footage to be preserved. According to the report, it includes two recorders, two portable hard drives, and two video encoders.