Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced that he is circulating a letter to his colleagues which will be sent to Attorney General Eric Holder urging the Department of Justice to help fund local police departments’ purchase of small body-worn cameras in order to increase transparency, decrease tensions between police and community members, and create a record of events.
Schiff, who is a member of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee and former Assistant U.S. Attorney, stated: “As the investigation into the death of Michael Brown illustrates, the circumstances of an officer-involved shooting can arouse the strongest passions in a community and breed an atmosphere of profound distrust. Having a video record of events not only deters the use of excessive force, but it also helps dispute or demonstrate claims of police brutality – in either case it improves community confidence in a just result. Studies done in localities that have implemented body-worn cameras have shown a positive impact by demonstrating a commitment to transparency and accountability and helping to deescalate potentially tense interactions.
“Given the Department of Justice’s crucial role in helping state and local law enforcement adopt best practices, I believe it’s time to expand our support to include assistance to law enforcement agencies that would like to adopt body-worn camera technology for their police officers. The Department of Justice can use existing funding streams, or work with Congress to create a new pool of resources for local governments to help implement body-worn cameras for police officers throughout the country.”
From the letter: “Police departments around the country have begun adopting small body-worn cameras for police officers on patrol. These cameras provide a visual and audio record of interactions with the public, so that in the event of a confrontation or police-involved shooting, such as the one that occurred in Ferguson, there is an inalterable record of the events. There are also indications that the presence of body cameras has a civilizing effect on both police officers and the public, resulting in lower incidences of excessive force complaints and deescalating tense situations before they become violent. Perhaps most importantly, cameras can instill greater trust in police departments on the part of the public they are sworn to protect. In communities with frayed police-community relations, cameras demonstrate a commitment on the part of the local police department to transparency and accountability, while protecting officers from false or frivolous complaints. For all these reasons, the adoption of body cameras has been well received in the jurisdictions that have begun to use them, both by the public and the officers wearing the cameras.”