U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch unveiled a 20 million dollar federal pilot program on Friday designed to equip police departments around the nation with body cameras. Federal officials expect to award about 20 million dollars in funding to 50 different law enforcement agencies, with an additional one million dollars being set aside for the Bureau of Justice Statistics to study the impact of the cameras.
Lynch promoted body cameras as a win-win solution that benefits both law enforcement officers and the community they are entrusted to serve. She stated:
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. Body-worn cameras hold tremendous promise for enhancing transparency, promoting accountability, and advancing public safety for law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.
The timing of the Justice Department’s announcement couldn’t have been more apropos, as it came on the same day that Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby filed charges against six police officers involved in the homicide death of Freddie Gray. Mosby’s investigation concluded that Gray died in police custody after being unlawfully arrested on April 12, 2015.
Body cameras could have been useful in documenting the circumstances surrounding Gray’s arrest, as well as his treatment while in police custody. If the police acted properly, the cameras would document that. If police were guilty of misconduct, the footage would show it. Body cameras would make it easier for juries to convict or acquit based on what they could see on film, rather than being forced to rely on sorting through conflicting testimonies to arrive at a verdict.
Body cameras are long overdue. While body cameras will not solve every existing problem in police and community relations, they do provide for a stronger measure of accountability, by recording police activity as it happens. The Obama Justice Department, led by recently confirmed Attorney General Loretta Lynch is taking a step in the right direction by making police cameras more affordable for local law enforcement agencies. The use of the cameras will make it easier to hold police officers accountable, and it will empower them to better protect and serve the communities they patrol.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.