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After the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the riots that followed, the Obama administration announced million for body cameras in December.The first sign that Seattle was ready to move beyond a pilot program came in mid-September when Murray, with Councilmember Harrell and Police Chief O’Toole, enthusiastically announced the city had been offered a 0,000 grant from the feds as part of President Obama’s push.That is a sentiment shared by Councilmember Harrell.“To me, when I hear the CPC object until state law is changed, they seem to be going against the 88 percent who support body cameras,” Harrell said in an interview, referencing a national poll published in the Huffington Post.Additionally, the Washington chapter of the ACLU, while in favor of body cameras generally, is opposed to their use in the absence of state laws regulating it.Neither of these groups buy Murray’s line that the City can answer privacy and dignity concerns without new legal tools from the state.“But I want to make clear: We will work carefully to get this right and adequately address privacy concerns.” What drove Murray across the room last week to say that there is no conflict is, in a way, a sign of the inverse: that there is, in fact, some conflict.
In Rialto, use of force cases dropped by half when the department introduced cameras; in Mesa, they dropped 75 percent.
In Mesa, the 75 percent drop was in contrast to only four use-of-force cases in the year before.
That’s not to say that body cameras did not play a role in the reduction of force, but only that there is no shortage of confounding variables in the world of crime statistics. After introducing body cameras, the department actually saw a 10 percent increase in use of force and a 36 percent increase in assaults on officers.
SPD’s Chief Operating Officer Mike Wagers said there was no one moment when the City and SPD absolutely committed itself to body cameras.
“As the Chief has said,” he said, “we have a moral obligation to implement this technology.” In the wake of a long string of high-profile deaths at the hands of police, many of who have been young black men, body cameras have gained traction nationally.