Obama Wants $75 Million For Police Body Cameras After Ferguson

In the wake of the Michael Brown shooting, President Barack Obama wants Congress to authorize $75 million over the next three years to help local police departments purchase up to 50,000 body cameras for their officers, senior administration officials said Monday.

That money would be part of a $263 million community policing initiative that Obama is proposing Monday, part of an all-day White House effort to address the concerns raised by the shooting and the subsequent protests in Ferguson, Mo., a week after a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for Brown’s death.

Body cameras became a popular reform proposal after Brown’s shooting and amid the following grand jury investigation; advocates say that they would give investigators an unbiased recording of any officer-involved incident rather than relying on the testimony of the officers themselves. Wilson testified to the grand jury investigating Brown’s shooting for four hours. Obama is also meeting with Cabinet members as well as community leaders and law enforcement officials to discuss the issues that have been raised in the four months since the shooting.

Obama’s proposal would provide a 50 percent federal match for local police departments to purchase body cameras and to store them. The White House estimated that the three-year, $75 million investment could purchase as many as 50,000 body cameras.

The most recent estimates have put the number of sworn law enforcement personnel with arrest powers at 765,000. A July 2013 report found that 75 percent of responding police agencies said that they did not use body cameras.

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A senior administration official told reporters in a Monday conference call that the White House would work with Congress to start the program in the FY 2015 budget.

The White House is also at Obama’s request drafting an executive order to reform the federal programs that transfer military-grade equipment to local police departments, which came under scrutiny during the Ferguson protests. Under the forthcoming executive order, the president is expected to require a civilian, non-police review of any equipment requests, require training for the use of any transferred equipment and mandate after-action reports if the equipment is used in the line of the duty.

Officials noted that 96 percent of transfers under the programs, such as the Pentagon’s 1033 program, were not military-specific equipment. That other 4 percent covered equipment like firearms and assault vehicles that has attracted the most controversy.

A senior administration official declined, however, to say whether Obama would support legislation to ban the transfer of the most militarized equipment, such as assault vehicles, to local police.

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