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DOJ Handing Out $20 Million For Police Body Cameras

from the finally,-a-law-enforcement-grant-that-doesn't-involve-military-gear dept

The Department of Justice is looking to help equip more law enforcement officers with body cameras.

The Obama administration is spending $20 million on police body cameras, amid rising tension over police violence.

The announcement from the Justice Department on Friday would create a new pilot program to equip police in dozens of cities with the devices, as the first step in a $75 million three-year effort that President Obama requested from Congress in December.

“This body-worn camera pilot program is a vital part of the Justice Department’s comprehensive efforts to equip law enforcement agencies throughout the country with the tools, support and training they need to tackle the 21st century challenges we face,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement shared with media outlets. “Body-worn cameras hold tremendous promise for enhancing transparency, promoting accountability and advancing public safety for law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”
One-third of the first $20 million will be routed to "small law enforcement agencies" -- the ones least likely to adopt this technology due to the cost of acquiring cameras. While grants towards initial purchases are helpful, unless there's more money on the way, ongoing maintenance and video storage costs will still be stated as reasons to avoid equipping officers with cameras.

This is a good move forward, though, even if simply equipping cops with cameras isn't a quick fix for law enforcement misconduct. As it stands now, most camera-equipped officers still exercise a great deal of control over what actually gets captured. And police departments -- often aided by sympathetic legislators -- are working quickly to limit the public's access to body camera recordings.

While there have been reports that body cameras have lowered both citizen complaints and use of force incidents, there's still more than enough released body cam footage that indicates it will take more than realizing they're being recorded to deter certain officers' abusive behavior and excessive force.

For instance, here's some footage captured by a Utah police officer's body cam that shows he and his fellow officers unleashing a police dog on a person with both hands in the air (while claiming the suspect "might have had a weapon" [that he was going to pull with his feet?]). Knowing a camera was running didn't result in any additional restraint by the officers.


Then there's the matter of the "extra rights" many officers have secured through police union pressure and law enforcement-friendly lawmakers. In addition to maintaining control over the release of footage, officers in some cities are given up to three days to review evidence before making a statement -- or even answering questions about the incident itself.

The administration's decision to fund body camera efforts is an implicit criticism of the current state of American policing. Police officers are well aware of what message is being sent by the deployment of these cameras. Even though captured footage also holds the power to exonerate wrongly-accused police officers, this fact is seldom mentioned by those critical of these programs. Instead, officers and their representatives suddenly develop concerns about the public's privacy -- something they've never expressed much interest in over the past several -- and mostly unrecorded -- decades.

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Filed Under: accountability, body cameras, doj, police


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2015 @ 9:20pm

    I hope they will start having actual penalties for officers that are found to have had their body cameras turned off when they are on duty.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DOlz (profile), 6 May 2015 @ 6:43am

      Re:

      When I was a school bus driver we had cameras on our busses. They ran from the time to bus was turned on and until it had been turned off for ten minutes. If there was ANYTHING done to interfere with the camera it was an immediate firing offense with no appeal. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that police officers be held to the same standard as a school bus driver.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 6 May 2015 @ 10:21am

        Re: Re:

        This reminds me of an incident a number of years ago where I live. All of the city buses are equipped with surveillance cameras. Someone boarded a bus and viciously attacked a blind man, nearly killing him. The camera video was played on the news along with a request for people to call the cops if they knew who the attacker was. The problem was that the quality of the video was so utterly terrible that it was utterly worthless.

        I can imagine that this would be another way for cops to effectively bypass any camera requirements: get a crappy enough camera, and it no longer matters.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 5 May 2015 @ 11:58pm

    I certainly hope they plan on handing out the gear itself, rather than just the money, otherwise I expect a good portion of it will get 'lost' in one way or another to avoid having to actually buy any body-cams.

    "Half a million dollars? What are you talking about, we never received any money from the DoJ, and certainly not that much. No, you must be thinking of some other precinct. Anyway, now that that's settled, how about I show you the game room we had installed recently, it's got a pool table and even a pinball machine!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2015 @ 1:48am

    dog n pony show

    ...color me cynical...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2015 @ 4:06am

    It won't help much

    As you might be aware, Baltimore police recently tortured a man to death after falsely arresting him. (And one of those officers has a history of death threats, violence, and mental instability: see http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/apr/23/baltimore-officer-who-chased-freddie-gray-had-pattern -of-violence-court-filings for some details.)

    And yet there are people -- like the FOP -- actually defending these officers. (I don't mean in the legal sense: everyone is entitled to a robust defense in court. I mean in the sense of defending their actions in pursuing, falsely arresting, beating, and torturing a citizen to death.)

    All the video, all the audio, all the pictures, all the eyewitness testimony -- and it's still not enough to convince some people that these cops are guilty as hell.

    The system is corrupt and broken. And until it's fixed, what happened in Baltimore is going to happen over and over and over again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2015 @ 7:08am

      Re: It won't help much

      you forget a police officer is a god unto men. they never ever lie are completely incorruptable and their word proves that the video evidence and witness testimony are fake to our lying eyes and ears.

      In short they are hero worshipped by idiots, who believe a cop will never do wrong and anything that contradicts that perception means the person is a criminal trying to slander an officers name and actions

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RD, 6 May 2015 @ 6:15am

    A *whole* 20 million?

    Wow a *whole* 20 million dollars for the entire country? I know this is only for body cams, but some single departments got more than that for purchasing military weapons and support materials. The priorities in this country are truly screwed up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Agonistes, 6 May 2015 @ 6:41am

      Re: A *whole* 20 million?

      Yeah, what you said. I just didn't have my post done before I saw yours, 20 million is chump-ass scratch for this problem.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Agonistes, 6 May 2015 @ 6:34am

    $20 million might be a a good lowball estimate for this project if the plan involved time travel to the 80s and stocking all their Miami Vice-looking asses with one Sony Digital Betamax camera (plus tripod of course) per department precinct. Otherwise, that's almost insulting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2015 @ 7:20am

    Ongoing Expenses

    Local LEO's: But, but, but we can't afford to store all that data!

    DOJ via FBI: No problem, we'll store it for you, just sign this NDA. No, no, don't worry, no one will ever see it except at law enforcement conventions where they might be shown during the entertainment sessions. If any defense lawyer has the gumption to ask for it, we will just claim state secrets.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 6 May 2015 @ 11:25am

    Police Controlled Cameras Are Worthless

    Cameras in the hands of the police will not remedy the growing problem of police brutality in the US as the police have repeatedly proven themselves untrustworthy.

    Only with accountability through the courts can US citizens hope to lawfully end this drug/terror war fueled militant blue shield of terror that has descended upon many locales throughout the US.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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