The White House Wants to Implement Body Cameras for Police

The Obama administration wants to set aside $263 million to improve law enforcement training and fund the purchase of 50,000 cameras that police officers can wear on their bodies. The White House proposed the move in a review of local-law-enforcement funding, released on Monday. It arrives one week after a Grand Jury decided not to indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of teenager Michael Brown, a decision that has sparked widespread upheaval across the country.

Some of the feelings of hopelessness and frustration surrounding the decision arise from discrepancies between Officer Wilson’s testimony and what other eye witnesses say happened on that August day when Brown was fatally shot. And without documentation, it’s a tragic tale of he-said-she-said, which many believe could have been lessened, if not completely avoided, had Officer Wilson been wearing a body camera at the time. 

In the wake of the Grand Jury verdict, Brown’s parents even released a statement, encouraging the public to join their campaign “to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.” Now, the Obama administration is answering the call. About $75 million of its $263 million budget would fund the purchase of body-worn cameras, and the new Body Worn Camera Partnership Program would provide a 50 percent match to states who buy their own body-worn cameras. This funding, of course, will only be enough to fill a small fraction of police officers with cameras, and yet, it’s a major vote of confidence from the federal government in a new method of police surveillance that is already proving to be incredibly effective. This is significant because providing body cameras to police can bring safety, certainty, and ease to any community it is introduced to.

Where does it work?

In Rialto, California police began wearing body cameras back in 2012. Citizen complaints against officers fell 88 percent in the first year, and use of force by officers declined 60 percent. That’s an indication that cameras don’t only capture the events as they unfold, but they actually change the way everyone involved behaves. Rialto police chief stated to The New York Times: “When you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better. And if a citizen knows the officer is wearing a camera, chances are the citizen will behave a little better.”

And in Washington D.C., a 6-month body camera pilot program is underway, officials expect to see complaints against officers fall by 80 percent. “This gives us that independent, unbiased witness…This will make our officers safer,” police chief Cathy Lanier told The Washington Post. “It will make our department more transparent. It will reduce the amount of time supervisors have to spend investigating allegations.”

On November 24, St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced the grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown. VICE News correspondent Danny Gold was on the ground in Ferguson to cover the community’s reaction to the announcement.

Kumar, Anita. “Obama Proposes to Buy 50,000 Wearable Cameras for Local Police.” N.p., 01 Dec. 2014. Web. 01 Dec. 2014.

“White House Urges Body Cameras for Police after Ferguson.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 01 Dec. 2014. Web. 01 Dec. 2014.

“Obama Requests $75m for Police Body Cameras.” – Americas. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2014. <http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2014/12/obama-requests-75m-police-body-cameras-201412118927522491.html&gt;.

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