In-Depth: Grants awarded through this
program would last for two years, with 50 percent of the grant being
disbursed when it was awarded. The remaining 50 percent would be
disbursed after the law enforcement agency has established policies and
procedures for using body-worn cameras, storing and destroying the data
it gathers, the release of stored data, and made these policies and
Funding for this program would
be capped at $10 million for the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years, and the
federal share of any body camera program that is funded with these
grants would not exceed 75 percent of the program’s total cost.
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
Data gathered through body cameras
obtained through this program would only be used in gathering evidence
related to a crime, misconduct investigations, and for limited training
purposes. The transfer of data to another law enforcement or
intelligence agency would be prohibited, except for:
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.
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.
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, its effect on public safety, storage issues, and
best practices for the use of body cameras. This study would be sent to
Congress within 180 days of its completion.
Of Note: A 2013 survey found that about a quarter of the 254 U.S. police departments that responded use body cameras, though it is unknown how many
total law enforcement agencies are using body cameras. It is currently
up to local law enforcement agencies to determine how to handle the data
they collect -- but the DOJ has published a guidebook of “Recommendations and Lessons Learned."The
issue of police-worn body cameras became a point of national discussion
after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. As USA Today points out:
“Other recent racially charged incidents, including the police shooting
death of Walter Scott in North Charleston, SC, and the death of Freddie
Gray, who suffered severe spinal cord injuries while in Baltimore
Police custody, have kept the issue in the national spotlight.”
proponents argue that police cameras may have deterred or at least
provided clarity in the aftermath of those incidents, detractors aren’t
so sure -- noting that interpretations of video and photo evidence are
often as varied as the interpretations of police actions themselves.
A similar version of this bill was introduced in December 2014, but it failed to progress out of committee before the 113th Congress concluded.
Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user North Charleston)