MSNBC — Two major U.S. cities announced Thursday that they are moving forward with efforts to arm police with body cameras to improve accountability and transparency.
The announcements come on the heels of the death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old, unarmed black man, who was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
Protests and violent clashes with police ensued as community outrage heightened when eyewitness accounts of Brown’s death emerged, conflicting with the narrative offered by the authorities. A grand jury is currently hearing evidence in the case against Wilson and will decide whether or not to charge him with a felony.
Houston’s Police Chief Charles McClelland has asked his city’s government for $8 million to fund 3,500 police officers’ body cameras over three years, following a successful pilot program last year that participating officers said pushed the police to act more professionally, according to the Houston Chronicle.
New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced Thursday that his department is “actively looking” at providing officers with body cameras, amNewYork reported. It’s a big step for the largest police force in the country, which has struggled with accusations of racial profiling, particularly over its past stop-and-frisk policy, which studies and courts ruled targeted minorities disproportionately. More recently, the choking death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man accused of peddling cigarettes at the hands of the NYPD, prompted protests, has caused widespread controversy and earned national news coverage. Last week, thousands — galvanized by Brown’s death — gathered to protest.
“It’s a technology that I support strongly,” Bratton told reporters at police headquarters.
A pilot program was ordered last year when a federal judge ruled against stop-and-frisk, and Mayor Bill de Blasio said it would help the city move forward with implementation.
“It’s going to tell us whether it’s something we can use on a bigger scale or it’s something that’s going to take a lot more time to use on a bigger scale. We’re going to have to find that out objectively,” the mayor said. “But we’re absolutely committed to the pilot. We think there’s real promise there.”
Officers in South Carolina’s capital also announced earlier this week they’d begin testing body cameras. “The public gets to see what I see, which is a benefit for everyone,” Columbia’s Lt. Joseph Rowson told local network WLTX.
The three cities join a handful of early adopters: roughly 30 Los Angeles officers are testing various camera models and plan to purchase 500 cameras for their force.
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