The Justice Department announced Friday that the Obama Administration will fund a $20 million body-worn camera program for law enforcement. This announcement comes amid rising tensions between police officers and citizens across the nation, resulting in civil unrest.
The funding is the initial step of a three-year, $75 million program outlined by the Administration, which will equip police officers with body cameras, provide additional paramilitary equipment training and focus on community outreach. Funding will also be spent on the effectiveness of the body-worn camera program and technical support, The Verge reports.
“This body-worn camera pilot program is a vital part of the Justice Department’s comprehensive efforts to equip law enforcement agencies throughout the country with the tools, support and training they need to tackle the 21st century challenges we face,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement. “Body-worn cameras hold tremendous promise for enhancing transparency, promoting accountability and advancing public safety for law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”
Demand for body-worn cameras has increased in reaction to the recent deaths of black Americans at the hands of police officers, many of which were captured on film by spectators. Notorious cases such as Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island have emboldened civil rights activists to call for law-enforcement reform.
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Many politicians have championed the idea, including Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton.
Rawlings-Blake’s decision to pursue a body-worn camera program came after another black American, Freddie Gray, died in police custody. Now ruled a homicide, Gray’s death triggered protests and riots in Baltimore.
In a recent speech, Clinton called for body-worn cameras in every police department and to an end of an "era of mass incarceration," Time reports.