Criminal Justice News

Friday, May 01, 2015

Supporting Communities and Law Enforcement with Body-Worn Cameras

May 1, 2015

Courtesy of Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason of the Office of Justice Programs

The responsibility for building and maintaining civic trust rests with every sector of society, from criminal and juvenile justice agencies to our human services system, and from faith-based groups to families.  In its report to the president, the Task Force on 21st Century Policing said that technologies like body-worn cameras “can improve policing practices and build community trust and legitimacy,” and recommended several actions aimed at ensuring their effective and transparent use.

Today, Attorney General Lynch announced a $20 million Body-Worn Camera (BWC) Pilot Partnership Program to respond to the immediate needs of local and tribal law enforcement organizations.  The investment includes $17 million in competitive grants for the purchase of body-worn cameras, $2 million for training and technical assistance and $1 million for the development of evaluation tools to study best practices.  Our Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) expects to make up to 50 awards to law enforcement agencies, with about one-third of the grants directed toward smaller agencies.  The grants, which require a 50/50 in-kind or cash match, can be used to purchase equipment so long as applicants establish a strong plan for implementation and a robust training policy before purchasing the cameras.  The long-terms costs associated with storing information will be the financial responsibility of each local agency.

BJA also will launch a BWC Implementation Toolkit this month, designed as an online resource for stakeholders.  This toolkit will focus on implementation requirements, retention issues, policy concerns, interests of prosecutors, victim and privacy advocates’ concerns, and community engagement and funding considerations.

Body-worn cameras are not a cure-all, but they can be a valuable tool for planting the seeds of trust in our communities, and they will provide an additional measure of safety for law enforcement officers, who work so hard and under such tremendous pressure to protect our communities.  I am pleased to make these resources available to our partners in the law enforcement community and look forward to helping them strengthen the bonds of trust with the citizens they serve.

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