December 02, 2014
Photo Courtesy Reveal Media USA
President Barack Obama proposed a three-year, $263 million investment package that will increase the use of body-worn cameras and expand training for law enforcement agencies, among other reforms. The proposal follows recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, where a grand jury decided last week not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, a black teen.
The grand jury decision prompted protests in Ferguson and across the country. A statement from Brown’s family after the decision announced a campaign to ensure that every U.S. police officer working the streets wears a body camera.
As part of the White House initiative, a new Body Worn Camera Partnership Program would provide a 50 percent match to states and localities that purchase body-worn cameras and requisite storage. Overall, the proposed $75 million investment during three years could help purchase 50,000 body-worn cameras.
The investment proposal would add more resources for police department reform and multiply the number of cities where the Department of Justice (DOJ) facilitates community and local law enforcement engagement. The initiative as a whole will help the federal government’s efforts to be a full partner with state and local agencies to build and sustain trust between communities and those who serve and protect them, a White House statement said.
The Obama administration released “Review: Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition”, which provides details on the programs that have expanded over decades across multiple federal agencies that support the acquisition of equipment from the federal government to law enforcement agencies. The review explored whether existing federal programs:
Provide law enforcement agencies with equipment that is appropriate to the needs of their communities,
Ensure that agencies have adequate policies in place for the use of the equipment and that personnel are properly trained and certified to employ the equipment they obtain, and
Encourage agencies to adopt organizational and operational practices and standards that prevent misuse/abuse of the equipment.
The report finds a lack of consistency in how federal programs are structured, implemented and audited. The report identifies four areas of further focus that could better ensure the appropriate use of federal programs to maximize the safety and security of police officers and the communities they serve: local community engagement, federal coordination and oversight, training requirements and the community policing model.
One process improvement suggested by the administration is to develop a database that includes information about controlled equipment purchased or acquired through federal programs.
The president met with International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) President Richard Beary on the issues. “Recognizing the vital role community trust and partnerships play in policing, the IACP convened a National Policy Summit on Community-Police Relations: Creating a Culture of Cohesion/Collaboration,” Beary said. “The summit brought together a wide range of law enforcement officials, community leaders, academic researchers and policy experts to discuss issues and concerns that shape and impact the relationship between police departments and the communities they serve. Significantly, many of the actionable recommendations that developed as a result of the summit are reflected in the actions the president outlined today.”
The IACP said it will issue a report on the summit deliberation soon, and the association hopes the work from the summit will serve as a blueprint for the president’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and improve community-police relations.