Police Body Cameras: A Presidential Proposal and a City at Odds

The interest around police body camera continues to grow as the White House released a statement that President Obama is proposing a program to help local governments purchase body cameras for police officers. As announced in a White House Press Release:

The President also proposes a three-year $263 million investment package that will increase use of body-worn cameras, expand training for law enforcement agencies (LEAs), add more resources for police department reform, and multiply the number of cities where DOJ facilitates community and local LEA engagement. As part of this initiative, a new Body Worn Camera Partnership Program would provide a 50 percent match to States/localities who purchase body worn cameras and requisite storage.  Overall, the proposed $75 million investment over three years could help purchase 50,000 body worn cameras. The initiative as a whole will help the federal government efforts to be a full partner with state and local LEAs in order to build and sustain trust between communities and those who serve and protect these communities.

The program is part of a broader initiative to strengthen community policing and comes on the heels of the Obama Administration’s release of Review: Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition. The President also plans to issue an executive order to create a Task Force on 21st Century Policing to look at how to promote effective crime reduction while building public trust. A report and recommendations will be due from the task force within 90 days of its creation.

In Baltimore City, the mayor and city council are at odds over a bill introduced by the council that would require Baltimore City police officers to body wear cameras. While the parties agree on the idea of cameras, they disagree on the details and execution as well as the council’s authority to propose the requirement. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake vetoed the city council’s bill on Monday. As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

The mayor said she will ask the council to authorize funding for a body camera program early next year. She recently convened a task force to study the issue and said she wants to wait for the group to release its findings.

Even so, Rawlings-Blake lauded President Obama’s Monday proposal for a three-year, $263-million federal spending package for increased training and body cameras. She said the president “is right to act swiftly and boldly,” in a statement Monday night.

In her letter to the council, she stressed that her veto was an indictment of the process, not the body cameras themselves.

“My opposition to this bill should not be confused with opposition to body cameras,” she wrote. “It is not the end that I object to but rather the means. … There will be body cameras in Baltimore City.”

For more information read the full White House Press Release and article in The Baltimore Sun.




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