Police Body-Cameras – A Good Idea Seeking Funds

On April 4, 2015, Walter Scott was stopped in North Charleston, SC by officer Michael Slater because his brake lights weren’t working. While the officer was on his car radio, learning that Scott had some outstanding warrants, Scott took off on the run.  Slater pursued him, and they scuffled; Scott was tasered at least once, and ran off again.  Officer Slater fired eight shots at Scott, hitting him five times, once fatally in the heart.  The officer’s initial report said he “feared for his life” because Scott had taken his taser, even though Scott was unarmed.

An eyewitness, Feiden Santana, recorded the incident on his smart phone.  He released his video recording when police reports contradicted what he saw.  According to Santana, Scott never took the taser, and was in fact fleeing to avoid being tasered again.

The shooting received considerable national publicity in the wake of allegations of police excesses in Missouri and New York. The Charleston Police Dept. fired Scott four days later, and the community rallied to prevent what could have been an ugly backlash. Officer Slate was subsequently charged with murder.

This ugly incident was quickly and appropriately dealt with by local officials, but the South Carolina legislature took the matter a step further, passing the “Walter Scott” bill – a law that requires all South Carolina law enforcement officers to wear body cameras.   Governor Nikki Haley said, “This is going to strengthen the people of South Carolina. This is going to strengthen law enforcement, and this is going to make sure Walter Scott did not die without us realizing that we have a problem.”

We do, however, still have a problem: coming up with the funds to pay for the newly-required technology, estimated at $23 million over the first two years.  The South Carolina legislature has yet to fully fund the plan.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officials across the country are ready to make the move to body cameras, should a source of funding become available.  The Reporters Committee has compiled a list and map of states showing their status on the body-camera issue.

Congressman Tim Scott (R-SC) hopes to provide federal funding for that purpose, proposing his “Safer Officers and Safer Citizens Act”, which would allocate $500 million federal dollars over five years to help local agencies acquire body-camera technology.  Scott said,

“Across our nation, too often we are seeing a lack of trust between communities and law enforcement lead to tragedy. While rebuilding that sense of trust will take time, I believe that providing law enforcement agencies with the resources they need to equip officers with body-worn cameras is an important step. We have seen that body-worn cameras can keep both officers and citizens safer, and that video can help provide clarity following an altercation. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a thousand pictures.”

Congressman Scott’s bill offers what many call a common-sense solution to a nagging problem:  how to balance the effectiveness of police officers with the rights and safety of citizens.  Like all federal solutions, its fate lies in the ability to muster enough support to win an appropriation of funds.

This article can be seen in its entirety at Watchdog Arena.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

 

I am the eye in the sky
Looking at you
I can read your mind

Eye In the Sky – Alan Parson Project

 

With a smart phone in every pocket, the “Eye In the Sky” is inescapable.  I can’t explain why I have always loved this song.  As a musician, there are just a lot of things going on here that excel.

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