On the same day that Baltimore’s chief prosecutor announced she will bring charges that include murder and manslaughter against six police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray, the Obama administration also announced it will pay out $20 million to local police forces for body cameras, says Reuters. This is the first installment of $75 million in grants pledged by the White House to spread body camera use across the U.S.
Police departments will only qualify for the funding if they already have body camera policies in place. The federal funding is meant to match local funding expressly dedicated to buying cameras and training police to use them–it won’t match local funding used for storage of body camera footage, which is the most expensive part of the body camera matrix.
Proponents see body cameras as a more absolute answer to the rising number of cases involving police shooting unarmed black men in the U.S.–cases that normally rely on the testimony of the police officer involved. But the high cost of outfitting, training, and especially storing the terabytes of footage taken by officers every day has caused many police departments to shy away from adopting body cameras. Obama’s new funding plan is an attempt to curb that.
In fact, it was because of cost and privacy concerns that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake initially vetoed a proposal last December to equip Baltimore police officers with body cameras: City officials estimated that it would cost the city $2.6 million annually to store all the footage and hire the extra staff needed to manage the video data, reported The Associated Press. But on Wednesday, Rawlings-Blake spoke in support of police body cameras, proposing a more limited $1.4 million pilot program that would outfit 100 officers with body cameras, according to The New York Daily News.
Cell-phone camera footage captured police aggressively detaining Freddie Gray on April 12. Gray died a week later of injuries allegedly sustained while in police custody, sparking riots in Baltimore that resulted in dozens of officer injuries, looting, burned cars and buildings, and the arrests of more than 200 people. The state’s attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn J. Mosby, announced the charges against the police officers as soon as a medical examiner reported Gray’s death was a homicide.
[via The Verge]