State lawmakers in at least seven states push for police-worn cams

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, December 05, 2014

State lawmakers around the country are preparing bills for consideration that would outfit law enforcement officials with body video cameras.

Most proposals are in response to protests around the nation following August’s fatal police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old in Ferguson, Mo. Officer Darren Wilson was not wearing a body camera when he shot and killed Michael Brown.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law one month later that calls for equipping all newly acquired municipal police cars in the state with dashboard cameras. However, departments can opt to save money and instead outfit officers with body-worn cameras.

To help foot the bill for adding cameras, drunken driving fines include a $25 surcharge.

Elsewhere, police departments in cities that include Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, New York City, Philadelphia and San Antonio are testing or plan to test the use of body cameras. According to The Wall Street Journal, about 5,000 police departments around the country now use the devices.

In Michigan, Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, wants to get rules in place by the end of the year to equip law enforcement officers with body-worn cameras.

McMillin said the cameras, which are the size of a pager and typically clipped to the front of the shirt, would provide a transparent and unbiased eye on all police interactions.

“Cameras don’t lie; they hold no bias and will ultimately help protect and serve the people and police officers,” McMillin said in a news release.

Funding for the purchase, maintenance of equipment and data storage would come from the Michigan State Police budget.

Multiple Missouri state lawmakers are calling for police to be outfitted with cameras. One of the bill sponsors says the devices would help clear up any differences in accounts of what occurred.

“Too often the police tell one story, while the people tell another,” stated Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City. “Cameras with both audio and video will assist in settling controversial disputes.”

Similar bills are in the works in states that include Illinois, Texas, Florida, South Carolina and New Hampshire.

South Carolina Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, said police officers should be collecting more evidence all the time.

“History has demonstrated that eyewitnesses are not always the most reliable form of evidence,” Malloy stated. “It is time for South Carolina to invest in commonsense technology.”

Law enforcement agencies around the country could soon get help footing the bill for the body-worn devices. President Barack Obama announced this week that federal funding will be pursued to help police buy the devices.

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