Justice Department funds body-worn cameras for police in small towns, rural areas and tribes


Written by Colin Wood

The Justice Department this week announced the release of $ 7.65 million to fund the deployment of body cameras to small law enforcement agencies, rural or tribal.

The ministry said funding would be available through a competitive grant program any law enforcement agency with 50 full-time sworn employees or less, non-urban county agencies, and federally recognized tribal agencies. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the funding is intended to provide law enforcement “with valuable resources to increase accountability and build confidence.”

The Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Assistance is set to distribute the funds as it collects claims through an online portal that Kristen Mahoney, the office’s acting director, says will “streamline” the grant process, which is to be administered by Justice and Security Strategies Inc., a law enforcement consulting firm. Applications must be submitted by August 31st.

Police departments have adopted body cameras more quickly in recent years, especially since the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 by Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, who shone the national spotlight on police conduct. In addition to South Carolina, which already had a statewide mandate for the use of body-worn cameras, six more states have since Floyd’s murder implemented laws requiring police uses the devices – Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and New Mexico – according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Indiana State Police announced on Thursday that they will be launching a $ 15 million body camera program following a tenure by Governor Eric Holcomb last summer in which he called for solutions regarding “equity and inclusion” in his state. This announcement was accompanied by the creation of a new position called Head of Equity, Inclusion and Opportunity.

“What I presented today are actions in a broad effort to ensure that Indiana is a place where every Hoosier has equal opportunity and access to realize our founders’ vision for life. , freedom and the pursuit of happiness, ”said Holcomb. August. “To achieve this vision, we must tackle the root causes and remove the obstacles that have accumulated over centuries. “

Connecting rural communities to use cameras is expected to be one of Indiana’s biggest challenges under the new program, ISP Superintendent Doug Carter told local media this week. The department said it plans to connect nearly 800 cameras by the end of August.

“It’s been a project in the works for a while now,” Carter said. “The police in the United States have changed in the past 16 months. “

For law enforcement agencies that are not eligible for the Department of Justice’s new grants program, he indicated another open solicitation: a $ 27.5 million program which is expected to close applications on Monday.

While many on both sides of the badge have placed their hopes in body-worn cameras reducing widespread distrust of law enforcement and mitigating inappropriate police behavior, the results on both fronts were equivocal. An April report find Body-worn cameras “may be effective” in reducing complaints and curbing the use of force by police, but only if agencies have a “strong accountability infrastructure” – training, policies and surveillance.

But the report found that these elements are often missing in police departments, where officers sometimes do not activate their cameras or officers are not held accountable for inconsistent use of devices. One solution suggested by the report is for agencies to use a feature that automatically turns on cameras under certain conditions.

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