Part of the problem is blamed on what experts call the myth of a "ninja assassin," an assailant whose ambush attack would leave officers vulnerable because their seat belts would interfere with their ability to get their gun.
"No one can tell you an actual story about it (and) I haven't been able to document it at all," Ashton said.
LAPD is using the 25th anniversary of a tragedy to highlight the problem. On Dec. 12, 1988, three officers died after being thrown from the two LAPD cruisers they were in that collided at a Skid Row intersection. One officer left behind a pregnant fiancee; another left a pregnant widow.
The sole survivor, Venson Drake, a 28-year-old probationary officer on his second day in the field, was wearing a seatbelt.
Drake, who just retired at 53, said rookie officers often face pressure to conform and copy their training officer. Bustamante found commanders rarely disciplined officers for not wearing seat belts.
"I also blame that on the department," Drake said. "They say they emphasize seatbelts but they really don't. If they start hitting us in our pocket books or we start taking suspension days for it, officers are going to buckle up."
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said he prefers educating rather than punishing officers who aren't wearing seatbelts because usually it's a well-intentioned effort to more speedily help the public.
To that end, the department has created a training video for the anniversary of the collision — the worst in its history — to educate its officers.
"They're not listening to the training, and they're still driving out there like they're invincible," said Capt. Ann Young, who heads the LAPD's Central Traffic Division and worked on the video. "If you stop and think for a minute, you know, I've got a loved one to get home to, they're depending on me every night."