In the wake of protests over the deaths of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, New York, and elsewhere at the hands of police, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is leading a bipartisan move to equip police with body-worn cameras and study whether it has an impact on boosting public confidence in law enforcement.
Paul joined with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Rep. Corinne Brown, D-Fla., and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., in introducing the Police Creating Accounting by Making Effective Recording Available (CAMERA) Act of 2015, which calls for matching funds to help local police rent or lease body cameras, and mandates a study of their effect two years after the legislation is passed, the Washington Times reports.
"Body cameras will benefit the brave men and women who serve in our police force and the people they protect," Paul said in a joint statement.
"The use of body cameras helps officers collect and preserve evidence to solve crimes, while also decreasing the number of complaints against police. The Police CAMERA Act will help state and local police departments access this new tool, while ensuring that the privacy rights of every civilian are respected."
The bill's purpose is to "establish a pilot grant program to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in purchasing body-worn cameras for law enforcement officers," the bill states.
It calls upon the director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to make the two-year grants available.
The act would require police to provide an explanation if a mandated activity is not recorded and to obtain permission from witnesses before recording their statements. It sets the available funds for grants at $10 million.
Ellison said in the press release, "After the tragic deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Robert Saylor and Tamir Rice, a stronger bond must be forged between our communities and police forces.
"The pilot program created by the Police CAMERA Act empowers law enforcement officials who want to do better for the people they protect and serve. Body cameras alone won't stop the next tragedy, but we should take every common-sense step we can to increase accountability and protect both civilians and police officers."
The release notes that the act already has received the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and local police departments.
Paul also has joined with Rep. Cory Booker, D-N.J., in introducing the REDEEM Act, which allows some nonviolent offenders to have their criminal records sealed and promotes reforms for juveniles in the criminal justice system, U.S. News & World Report notes.
Brown said in the joint release, "Representing Florida, a place that has had its share of issues with transparency and police accountability, the CAMERA Act is a positive bi-partisan measure which strengthens trust between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve."
Schatz stated, "In communities like Ferguson, we have seen that public trust eroded by reports of racism and use of excessive force by police. Body-worn police cameras are already being used by some police departments and have shown to be effective in keeping our communities safe."
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