Vicksburg, Miss., police are hoping to purchase cameras to keep a better eye on officers and suspects in the field.
Police Chief Walter Armstrong said he’s examining funding options for purchasing bodyworn cameras for the department’s more than 70 officers.
“I think they’re a wonderful idea, I would love to have them for each of the officers,” Armstrong tells The Vicksburg Post.
President Barack Obama announced in December a federal initiative for $263 million in funding for law enforcement agencies to buy cameras and improve training. The White House said the funding could help in buying 50,000 body-worn cameras.
“I would like to have them sooner than later, but it’s going to depend on the funding,” Armstrong said. “We’re going to look at all possibilities to make that happen in the future.”
The cameras have become a hot¡button issue around the nation since the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, was not wearing a camera.
Some critics of the shooting say if Wilson had been wearing a camera, questions surrounding the shooting could be answered. Without video footage police shootings frequently boil down to a he¡said, she¡said situation played out in private before a grand jury.
Not everyone supports the cameras though. Police unions have raised opposition, and some groups argue that body cameras could violate privacy, such as when officers are interviewing children or sexual assault victims.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Department began using the cameras last May, Sheriff Martin Pace said.
“We have had cameras installed in every Warren County patrol car for about 15 years,” he said. “As we began changing out some of our older camera systems, the new systems come with a body cam attachment for the officer.”
Vicksburg police cars also have in¡vehicle cameras. Videos taken from these cameras are frequently shown at criminal trials and have been used during officer disciplinary hearings.
Both types of cameras are important tools for keeping officers accountable and gathering evidence, Pace said.
“This is just the next step in technology,” Pace said.
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