The U.S. Department of Justice is launching a pilot program aimed at expanding the use of body cameras worn by police officers, the Washington Post reports. The cameras are meant to help local and tribal law enforcement agencies improve relationships with the public after a year of protests aimed at the way police officers use lethal force, particularly toward black men and boys. “Body-worn cameras hold tremendous promise for enhancing transparency, promoting accountability, and advancing public safety for law enforcement officers and the communities they serve,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
DOJ will award nearly $20 million to dozens of departments, about a third of them small law enforcement agencies. Another $1 million will be set aside so that the Bureau of Justice Statistics can figure out how to study the actual impact of these cameras. A White House task force on policing did not recommend that all officers wear cameras, but it said that these cameras have been shown to reduce use of force by police and complaints against officers. The cameras “help police departments ensure that events are also captured from an officer's perspective,” the report said. Video footage has played a key role in several recent episodes. A civilian recording showed Freddie Gray being dragged toward a Baltimore police van a week before he died of a spinal injury, and a bystander's video showed a South Carolina officer firing multiple shots into the back of a fleeing driver last month; the officer was charged with murder after the video was released.