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house Bill H.R. 1680

Should More Police Officers Have Body Cameras?

Argument in favor

Body cameras will help with evidence collection in addition to reducing the use of excessive force by police officers. It’s a positive for both the general public and for law enforcement officials.

MateoLowe's Opinion
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04/10/2015
The body cameras can provide non-bias evidence by capturing everything that happens as it happens. The film evidence will be very useful in court and can help protect police officers and can help give us better understanding when a citizen is shot by an officer which unfortunately is an important issue today.
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Cary's Opinion
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04/11/2015
Anything that will increase accountability and serve as a deterrent to excessive force is positive.
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Spider-Man's Opinion
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05/15/2015
I say yes, but also retrain them and give civilians the right to hold a cop accountable if mistreated, or if they see the cop using excessive force to restrain them. But not before having video proof of the officers abuse of power. Like that one lady who had her phone smashed by that U.S. marshal. If I was there and civilians had the ability to restrain officers after doing something like that, I would have. Because he charged at her without even noticing his rifle swaying and because he destroyed her property.
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Argument opposed

Body cameras threaten the privacy of citizens and police officers — especially because there are no standard regulations (at the local or federal level) for how the camera data is stored, used, or destroyed.

Keegan's Opinion
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04/10/2015
This would not solve the root of the problem - inadequate training in the use of force. We need to train our officers to not assume everybody is a threat and to treat the people they are trusted to protect as that - people.
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VACatholicKnight's Opinion
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04/10/2015
I support cops using body cameras in order to protect the public and themselves. However, why involve the Federal government? Let the states and local governments deal with the issue.
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Tylersmith's Opinion
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05/06/2016
This is a great idea, but should not be worked with on a federal level.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
      Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
    IntroducedMarch 26th, 2015

What is House Bill H.R. 1680?

Video Summary: 



This bill would establish a grant program to give state and local law enforcement agencies money to buy body cameras for all on-duty police officers. The hope is that these body cameras would improve evidence collection, deter excessive force, and improve both police accountability and transparency.


These programs would operate on the assumption that officers wearing body cameras should minimize recording of data that’s unrelated to law enforcement activities. Officers would also be held accountable for explaining when they don't record activities and situations that should’ve been recorded. Officers would also have to get consent from witnesses and crime victims before recording. Members of the public would be able to file complaints related to the improper use of body cameras.


At the end of the day, these body camera programs would be operating to collect more data from state and local law enforcement agencies on:

  • Incidents when officers use force — broken down by the race, ethnicity, gender, and age of the person who was the target of force.

  • The number of complaints filed against law enforcement officers, and the nature of those complaints.

  • How camera footage is used for evidence collection when investigating crimes.

Impact

The general public, law enforcement officers, law enforcement agencies at the state and local level, the Office of Justice Programs, body camera manufacturers, and the Assistant Attorney General.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1680

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth:

Grants awarded through this program would last for two years, with 50 percent of the grant money being handed out right when it's awarded. The remaining 50 percent would be distributed only after the law enforcement agency has established policies and guidelines for using the cameras, storing and destroying the data they gather, how to release stored data, and shared the new policies with the public.


Funding for this program would be capped at $10 million for 2015 and 2016. The amount of money that the government forks over for any of the body camera programs could not exceed 75 percent of the program’s total cost.

The system that stores the data from the body cameras would log all viewing, modification, or deletion of stored data in order to prevent unauthorized access or disclosure of stored data. Law enforcement officers would be prohibited from accessing the system without authorization. 


Data gathered through the body cameras in these programs would only be used for collecting crime-related evidence, investigating misconduct, and for some training purposes. The transfer of data to another law enforcement or intelligence agency would be prohibited, except for:

  • Criminal investigations where there is reasonable suspicion that the requested data contains evidence related to that investigation.

  • Civil rights claims investigating any right, privilege, or immunity that is protected by the Constitution or laws of the U.S.


Applications would be made to the Assistant Attorney General by the chief executive of a state, local government, or Indian tribe. Within 90 days of this bill’s enactment the Assistant Attorney General would release the requirements of the grant application process.


Within two years of grants being disbursed, the Assistant Attorney General would conduct a study on the impact of body cameras on the use of force by police officers, on public safety, storage issues, and best practices. This study would be sent to Congress within 180 days of its completion.


Of Note:

Body cameras have been at the center of police accountability debates, long before Michael Brown and Eric Garner were household names. The police shooting of Walter Scott in April 2015 again turned national attention to the question, "Are body cameras the answer to avoiding excessive, and sometimes fatal, police force?" As the National Journal explains: 

"Michael Slager, the police officer who killed Walter Scott [in] North Charleston, wasn't wearing a body camera. But video shot by a bystander showed Slager shooting Scott eight times in the back as he was running away, leading to murder charges for the officer on Tuesday. Without that footage, advocates say, the outcome of the deadly encounter would've been different.
"The shooting would never have moved into the consciousness of Americans but for that camera," said Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, who's introduced legislation supporting police body cameras. The case for police officers to wear them "was made as profoundly in [North Charleston] as it could be made.""
Critics of body camera programs maintain that they get trumpeted as the silver bullet to the issue of excessive police force. Some fear that implementing body cameras will make the public relax, and lessen the emphasis on good training, and better policies on use of force — not to mention the concerns about privacy and data storage. The federal government has yet to set regulations on how law enforcement agencies should handle the data they collect — but the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) has a pretty handy guidebook of "Recommendations and Lessons Learned." 

similar version of this bill was introduced in December 2014, but it failed to get out of committee before the end of the 113th Congress.


Media:

Sponsoring Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) Press Release

Civil Beat

The Guardian

Washington Times

ACLU (In Favor)

California Magazine (Context)

Office of Justice Programs (Context)

Wall Street Journal (Context)

LA Times (Context)


Summary by Eric Revell 
(Photo Credit: PoliceStateDaily.com)

AKA

Police CAMERA Act

Official Title

To establish a pilot grant program to assist State and local law enforcement agencies in purchasing body-worn cameras for law enforcement officers.

    The body cameras can provide non-bias evidence by capturing everything that happens as it happens. The film evidence will be very useful in court and can help protect police officers and can help give us better understanding when a citizen is shot by an officer which unfortunately is an important issue today.
    Like (149)
    Follow
    Share
    This would not solve the root of the problem - inadequate training in the use of force. We need to train our officers to not assume everybody is a threat and to treat the people they are trusted to protect as that - people.
    Like (101)
    Follow
    Share
    Anything that will increase accountability and serve as a deterrent to excessive force is positive.
    Like (90)
    Follow
    Share
    I support cops using body cameras in order to protect the public and themselves. However, why involve the Federal government? Let the states and local governments deal with the issue.
    Like (70)
    Follow
    Share
    I say yes, but also retrain them and give civilians the right to hold a cop accountable if mistreated, or if they see the cop using excessive force to restrain them. But not before having video proof of the officers abuse of power. Like that one lady who had her phone smashed by that U.S. marshal. If I was there and civilians had the ability to restrain officers after doing something like that, I would have. Because he charged at her without even noticing his rifle swaying and because he destroyed her property.
    Like (36)
    Follow
    Share
    It's a 2 waY street. It will protect the innocent and help convicts the guilty beyond a shadow of doubt!
    Like (29)
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    Nearly all areas of employment have security cameras fixated on their employees, cops should be subjected to this as well.
    Like (25)
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    This is a great idea, but should not be worked with on a federal level.
    Like (24)
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    I think at this point we know dash cams have helped. Body cams are needed. Both to protect civilians AND officers, in investigations and trials. More evidence is always a good thing.
    Like (20)
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    YES AND NO! I think it's a good idea, BUT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT INTERFERE IN STATE AND LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT POLICIES!
    Like (12)
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    Answer? Part of a solution first question where is the $$ coming from? CHINA?
    Like (11)
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    Body cameras can change the way law enforcement works. The use of technology like the one seen in this instance in Seattle is an interesting example to keep in mind. http://ow.ly/PiBit
    Like (10)
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    Part of the answer. Training and oversight needs increased.
    Like (5)
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    Given the current environment, we need these as safeguards to improve trust and relationships between law enforcement and communities.
    Like (4)
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    Believe it or not an increase of police officers and law authorities may assist with court trials and lawsuits as a form of primary evidence. Additionally, authorities must contain any necessary precaution for their safety, and the safety of the public as well. Body cameras would not promote abusive governmental power but it will visually display an urgency of a situation especially if there is two opposing arguments about what occurred during a traffic stop or any incident. These are government employees and the federal governments first priority is to keep the American people safe not contribute to bureaucrats to increase abusive legislation, not to grant amnesty to law breaking thieves but to keep US CITIZENS SAFE. By regulating body cameras on law authorities departments may look over these footages to greatly influence the quality of their employees service/exercise, procedure during emergency circumstances. It is self explanatory that this is not abusive power but if the American public has their constitutional amendment to film authorities then authorities have to right to this protection as well. Footage reveals proof in the pudding. When we have more proof for emergency circumstances then are safety is at a great status.
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    While there are potential issues with privacy, studies show that there are significant benefits regarding violence to wearing these. Not just for public safety, but for the safety of officers as well, the camera is a deterrent. And having better evidence in court to ensure justice is a primary driver.
    Like (4)
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    Incidents involving officers and unarmed citizens across the country have shown that blind and free policing leads to the loss of innocent civilian lives. The use of body cameras has proven time and time again to reduce the number of hostile police arrests. A child will not reach into the cookie jar to steal a cookie before dinner if a parent is watching.
    Like (4)
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    Body cameras should be mandatory for all officers on duty, with serious judicial consequences outlined for those whose cameras "malfunction" or are turned off during incidents of police brutality or police killings.
    Like (4)
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    There will be less commotion and debate when cops' action come into questioning.
    Like (3)
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    I support this bill. Though, I question its degree of necessity during the election year. It seems like this bill is one of those which is designed to appeal to a certain base: lending support to those lawmakers who support it and being used as political ammunition against those opposed. The general thinking here seems to be if you oppose spending increases to law enforcement then you are "soft on crime." This to me is unfair and dirty political practice. Never mind how this ties into the discussion around the "war on drugs," but the fact of the matter is in the last 25 years as a result of the the US surplus military spending and the development of the Dept. of Homeland Security, much of the extra equipment leftover from the military operations has been repurposed to law enforcement agencies around the country with certain provisions. This includes light armored vehicles, body armor, high caliber rifles. To me this is a red flag. As Americans we should ever be wary against the militarization of police. However, I believe at its heart this bill does more to serve and protect the people than it does arm the police with another tool. To be passed, there should be specific language concerning where the money comes from to provide the body cameras and to which districts is it primarily directed. Areas with the highest rates of police brutality, low income areas, and areas with large ethnic minority populations should be highlighted for the project. Money should come from existing police budget and be held within the lines for annual general budget increases. Police get plenty of money to stop crime on the streets. I look at this bill as an opportunity to provide the people with the safety and peace-of-mind knowing that law enforcement is being held accountable in their approach to using force. These cameras are a valuable resource to be used as evidence in both criminal cases and cases brought against law enforcement for use of excessive force.
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