As Congress heads out, body cameras are up for debate

WASHINGTON – Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are reviewing President Barack Obama’s plan to spend $75 million dollars to get 50,000 more police officers to wear body cameras that record their interactions with civilians. The president’s move is spurred by the Ferguson, Missouri shooting of Michael Brown.

More body cameras for police is part of a three year, nearly $300 million spending plan the president is pushing, one lawmakers have a lot to say about.

“I think it will create better feelings, better communications with communities and police forces. I understand the fear a police officer has coming into a situation,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

Obama’s proposal would provide assistance through federal funding for the cameras, and it would require departments to undergo training to properly use them.

Most Congressional Democrats support the plan.

“I think there is a national interest in insuring that citizens are protected, and that includes protections from those in authority,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI).

It’s good policy, according to lawmakers who think there needs to be more oversight. And, good policy according to lawmakers who say problems between police and community members are causing controversy all across the country.

“It doesn’t happen in every town, but there are enough of them out there that make it, I think, a national concern,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).

Many Republicans say putting body cameras on police officers is a decision that’s best left to each individual community.

“Local communities have got to solve local problems,” said Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA). “I don’t like Washington coming on board and saying ‘This is what works. We know better than the rest of you.’”

Recording exchanges isn’t cheap. The president’s proposal would only fund half of the cost for the cameras – the rest would be up to the states and localities that use them. There is an upfront cost for cameras, a monthly fee, and more costs for storage to back up video footage.

“I don’t think the president ought to impose his will for political reasons on our local police forces,” said Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA). “If we’re providing resources, they should be able to use those resources to pursue, to purchase, secure their own identified, needed, high-priority resources.”

As lawmakers consider the plan on body cameras, protests continue across the country. A national protest against police violence is set to take place Saturday in Washington.

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