I was pleased to see that president Obama has pushed for the widespread use of body cameras to be worn by police officers while they are on duty, by providing matching funds that could supply up to 50,000 units.
Under the matching program announced Monday, local police departments will be able to apply for the matching funds in a program modeled after one that equipped officers around the country with body armor.
It’s part of a proposed $263 million, three-year initiative that will also provide more local police training and broaden the federal Department of Justice’s role in that training, White House officials told reporters in a background briefing.
Obama also said he will issue an executive order to streamline and tighten how the federal government passes surplus equipment to local law enforcement agencies, White House officials said.
Of course, just having body cams is not enough unless policies are put in place that will prevent them being turned off without good reason and that the videos will be stored and not erased. Otherwise we may have an epidemic of Watergate-type gaps in recordings at crucial moments. Having the recording go straight to the cloud will prevent things like this case where Denver police seized a tablet computer from someone who was recording them beating a man and his pregnant girlfriend and then erased the video. But the material had already gone to the cloud and was recovered later.
You can expect police departments to try and find ways to torpedo this since it will definitely limit their freedom to act as they like and not allow them to get away with things simply because right now their word is accepted over that of civilians. Given the Republican policy of opposing any Obama initiative I wonder how the Republicans are going to react to this? Will they object on the grounds that it might somehow inhibit police actions by making them more apprehensive? Or will that be seen as too risky a strategy that looks like they want to protect acts of police brutality?
So far they have been quiet, perhaps trying to gauge public sentiment before taking a stand.