Body Camera Spotlight: State and Police Advocates of New Legislation & Programs

The use of body cameras by police have widely reported benefits and negatives, but more and more police departments and lawmakers are choosing to see the positives of such transparent technology.

The use of body cameras by police have widely reported benefits and negatives, but more and more police departments and lawmakers are choosing to see the positives of such transparent technology.

It is now commonly accepted that both police officers and members of the public behave better when they know that they are on camera, therefore creating cost savings via crime reduction as well as allowing for greater accountability.

Lawmakers Pushing for Change

john Ray Clemmons 2

On the 16th of this month, Nashville Rep. John Ray Clemmons, announced that he would be filing legislation for each Metro Nashville Police Officer to be issued with a body camera and patrol car camera by February 2021.

Since a “Driving While Black” report was published in 2016 by justice advocacy group, Gideon’s Army, Clemmons has argued that there have been three mayors but little progress in enabling greater transparency in everyday policing. Whilst a body camera pilot program was announced in December 2019 by the current Mayor (and a visit from the Bureau of Justice Assistance planned), Clemmons is attempting to push through the legislation to ensure a target date is set in stone.

Body Cameras for Elected Officials

State Rep. Clemmons is not alone; Illinois lawmaker John Cabello (pictured at the top of this article) has also filed a bill to require the use of body cameras by all elected officials performing public business.

Cabello has been inspired by the debate of whether police departments should be using body cameras from the beginning to the end of their daily shifts. He has made a credible argument that all elected officials should be expected to wear body cameras if it is deemed “good enough for law enforcement.” Cabello believes that it will make everyone in public office “a little bit more accountable” and should not be considered too expensive “if we think that our police departments can afford this.”

However, there is a negative twist to Rep. Cabello’s attempt of pushing the bill through to a successful vote. As he admirably states: “I’d be more likely to win the lottery than have these bills see the light of day, but we’re still going to try.”

NY Lawmakers want Body Cameras for State Police

Senator Parker

In the Fall of 2019, a NY bill introduced and backed by state Senator Kevin Parker and Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, proposed to issue state troopers with body cams.

According to WCBS, New York is one of the few states where the primary law enforcement agency doesn’t currently use body or dashboard cameras. The new bill therefore also details how state troopers should record their activities.

If the legislation is approved, the cameras would record from the moment that a state trooper leaves their patrol vehicle or when they carry out a traffic stop. Sen. Parker added that “Everybody acts differently when (someone) is watching.”

D.C. Area Re-Introduces Bill for Federal Officers

Eleanor Holmes

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Don Beyer last year reintroduced a bill requesting for uniformed federal officers to use both body cameras and dashboard cameras, following the 2017 fatal shooting of unarmed Bijan Ghaisar.

The new legislation was amended to include situations in which uniformed federal officers would be able to turn off their cameras, including when it would risk the safety of informants.

According to the Washington Post, Del. Norton stated: “Evidence consistently shows that body cameras help determine the facts and increase transparency of policing across the country. The federal government is late acknowledging that state and local law enforcement, including D.C.’s Metropolitan Police, already utilize best practices with encouraging results.”

Police Departments Advocating for Camera Usage

Photo Perry Beise

Sauk Rapids Police Chief, Perry Beise, is one of the latest senior police officers who is set to implement body cams within his police force. It seems that Chief Beise is motivated by two main aspects of the cameras: greater evidence of crime plus greater evidence of good policing by his officers:

“It doesn’t always capture everything, the body cameras could be focused in one direction, while what the officer has to react to is off to his right or left.  But, the more evidence that we have I believe it will show the officers are generally doing the right thing.”

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