On Monday, September 21st, the U.S. Department of Justice announced their plan to grant $19.3 million federal dollars to police departments looking to start equipping their officers with police body cameras. As reported by U.S. News and World Report, the grant will provide money to 73 police agencies in 42 states and will help with the purchase of 21,000 cameras.
“This vital pilot program is designed to assist local jurisdictions that are interested in exploring and expanding the use of body-worn cameras in order to enhance transparency, accountability and credibility,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement. “The impact of body-worn cameras touches on a range of outcomes that build upon efforts to mend the fabric of trust, respect and common purpose that all communities need to thrive.”
All in all, 285 different police departments from across the nation applied for the program, which was originally announced by the Obama administration in May. The departments sought a combined $56 million in police body cam funding, which far exceeded the Justice Department’s original funding cap of around $17 million for 50 departments.
According to Attorney General Lynch, and addition $2 million will be given to non-profit organization CAN for training and technical assistance. They are also devoting $1.9 million to fund body cam research in Miami, Milwaukee, and Phoenix.
The grants are part of an initiative known as the Body-Worn Camera Pilot Partnership Program, which seeks to help departments address any difficulties or issues they may have. Recipients of the grant must develop specific policies involving the body camera, including when to turn them on, how the cameras are stored, and how to protect privacy.
“As a law enforcement officer myself, I believe that wearing body cameras in general is a win/win for departments and the public” said Jubal Ragsdale, President of 10-8 Video LLC. “A study by the San Diego Police Department just released in March of this year revealed that for officers wearing body cameras, complaints against officers fell over 40%, and use of force by officers fell over 46%. That is a very big difference that can only viewed as a tremendous positive for all involved. As more and more departments see the benefit of body cameras, demand has continued to increase.”
Yet despite the Justice Department’s desire to increase police transparency and build public trust, some departments are refusing to release their videos to the public.
According to LA Weekly, the Los Angeles Police Department’s new body cam program will not release videos of serious incidents like shootings, even at the request of a victim’s family. They believe that releasing these videos will violate the privacy of people who interact with police officers.
President Barack Obama is proposing additional funds be added to the program in the next two years to buy a total of 50,000 cameras. In addition, the Justice Department has said that other money may be available through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant.