The Los Angeles Police Department on Tuesday got approval to begin recording and storing aerial footage of protests and other large gatherings from its helicopters, the LA Times newspaper reported late on Tuesday.
Police said the new capability will expand its "operational readiness" while protesters and activists described the step as unconstitutional government surveillance, said the newspaper.
"This is the height of state repression and surveillance," Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
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, according to the report.
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 recorded or stored.
The new equipment will allow the footage to be preserved. It includes two recorders, two mobile hard drives and two video encoders, according to the report.