White House announces $263M request for body camera funding
In an effort to improve police technology use across the country, the White House recently announced a request made by President Barack Obama that would, if approved, go toward equipping law enforcement officers with body cameras.The proposal, which still has to pass through Congress, would direct approximately $70 million to state and local governments each year between 2015 and 2017. The funds would be used to match money spent by those state and municipal authorities, ultimately leading to the purchase of as many as 50,000 body cameras. The funds would also go toward the technological infrastructure needed to appropriately maintain and store video footage.
Creating more transparency
The concept of the program was spurred by the recent decision of a St. Louis-area grand jury to not indict a police officer in the death of a Ferguson, Missouri resident, according to NBC News. While the impetus cited by the president was to defuse community tensions through the use of body cameras, they also provide practical benefits to the officers while on patrol. With appropriate training, also provided for in the structure of the bill, cameras serve as an unobtrusive, position-neutral evidence-gathering tool that results in less reliance on testimony in cases.
When deployed appropriately, they can also help calm tensions between communities and police forces as well. One often overlooked fringe benefit of body cameras, is that people tend to be better behaved when observed, according to The Associated Press. A study from the U.S. Department of Justice into the benefits of body cameras for police use was the basis for the assertion.
More commitment from the top
The increased involvement of the White House in the push for more officers to have access to and utilize various forms of law enforcement technology is good news for many departments across the country. Should the bill go through, the cost of body cameras will be cut in half for the next three years, lowering the barriers for departments requesting local or state funds to use such a program.
Ultimately, crime control efforts could see a boost from body cameras, as they provide viewpoint-neutral evidence and encourage better behavior on the parts of both officers and citizens. While the proposal still needs to gain approval from Congress, it would be a boon for policing efforts in a wide variety of locales.
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