Obama requests $75m for police body cameras

Following Ferguson shooting, US president wants federal spending to get 50,000 more police to wear body cameras.

US President Barack Obama is calling for $75m in federal spending to get 50,000 more police to wear body cameras that record their interactions with civilians.

The move, announced on Monday at the White House, comes in the wake of riots in the US city of Ferguson that were triggered by a grand jury’s decision not to prosecute a white police officer accused of shooting and killing an unarmed black teenager last August. 

The US president is not seeking to pull back federal programmes that provide military-style equipment to local law enforcement, reported the Associated Press news agency.

Obama is proposing a three-year $263m spending package to increase use of body-worn cameras, expand training for law enforcement and add more resources for police department reform. 

The White House has said the cameras could help bridge deep mistrust between law enforcement and the public.

Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Washington DC, said that the move offers an opportunity for disputes with the police to be recorded.

“This would eliminate situations not just in Ferguson but around the United States,” she said.

Military gear

Demands for police to wear the cameras have increased across the country since Michael Brown’s death. Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Brown, resigned from police this week.

Listening Post – Ferguson: Riots, race and media

Some officers in the St Louis suburb have since started wearing the cameras, and the New York Police department became the largest department in the US to adopt the technology when it launched a pilot programme in early September.

After the shooting and resulting protests in August, Obama ordered a review of federal programmes that fund military gear for local police after critics questioned why police in full body armour with armoured trucks responded to dispel demonstrators.

Obama seemed to sympathise when announcing the review over the summer.

Senior administration officials said on Friday that five federal agencies have programmes to supply the equipment that are authorised by Congress, but Obama’s focus is not supporting legislation to repeal them but to make sure there are standards to make sure the equipment is used safely.

Obama’s staff is drafting an executive order that will require federal agencies that run the programmes to work with law enforcement and civil rights and civil liberties organisations to recommend changes.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies