Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) wants police across the nation to be equipped with body cameras, and she thinks a good way to make that happen is to tie compliance to federal funding.
"I would like to see us say, 'If you want federal funding in your community, you've got to have body cams on your officers,'" said McCaskill at an event in Missouri, according to CNN. "And I think that would go a long way towards solving some of these problems, and it would be a great legacy over this tragedy that's occurred in Ferguson, regardless of what the facts say at the end as to whether or not anyone is criminally culpable."
McCaskill, who was recently tapped to lead a Senate hearing on the militarization of local police departments next month, has seen her state the center of controversy over the past few weeks. As you're probably aware, the story of Mike Brown's death at the hands of a Ferguson, MO police officer and the subsequent protests and police response has dominated the national dialogue.
Like other proponents of police body cameras, McCaskill made the argument that the technology not only protects citizens from police malfeasance, but also protects police officers from false allegations.
"Everywhere I go people now have cameras," said McCaskill. "And police officers are now at a disadvantage, because someone can tape the last part of an encounter and not tape the first part of the encounter. And it gives the impression that the police officer has overreacted when they haven't."
McCaskill's opinions of police cameras are shared by many, as evidenced by a recent petition on the White House's We The People petition site. That petition called for a "Mike Brown Law," which would require all police officer in America to wear body cameras.
"The law shall be made in an effort to not only detour police misconduct (i.e. brutality, profiling, abuse of power), but to ensure that all police are following procedure, and to remove all question, from normally questionable police encounters. As well, as help to hold all parties within a police investigation, accountable for their actions," said the petitioner.
Within days, the petition topped the 100,000 signature threshold. As of today, it sits with over 150,000 signatures.
A select number of police forces around the country have already begun equipping cops with cameras – most notably the force in Rialto, California.
Those cameras have been recording for about a year – with drastic results. Incidents of ‘use of force’ by police dropped 60 percent, and the number of complaints against officers fell 88 percent.
Both the LAPD and NYPD are also assessing the possibility of body cameras.
Though most feel that body cameras would do more good than harm, it's important to note that it in no way represents a silver bullet to the unbalanced police/citizen relations in the country.
Image via Wikimedia Commons