The Oklahoma City (OKC) Police Department will begin a pilot program of officers wearing body cameras in an effort to ensure transparency and accountability on the part of its officers. The department suffered a blow to public trust after one of their officers, Daniel Holtzclaw, was convicted of using his authority to rape 13 African-American women while on duty.
The OKC council initiated the process towards body cameras in January 2015, planning to phase in 700 cameras for officers to wear over the course of five years, KFOR reports.
The city council approved of spending $400,000 on a pilot program to test out 100 body cameras. The implementation of the technology will also require the department to hire six new employees to manage and maintain the digital library the cameras would create.
“We believe this program is going to improve the openness, transparency and public confidence, especially in spite of the events that have happened in the past year,” OKC Police Capt. Paco Balderrama said.
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The initiative seems necessary after the high-profile trial of 29-year-old officer Holtzclaw. The officer patrolled some of the poorest neighborhoods in OKC, targeting women of color with criminal histories and sexually assaulting them, CNN reports. He allegedly chose them because he was confident that no one would believe their accusations.
In a time when there is tension between police departments and minority groups across the country, Holtzclaw’s crimes have been a stinging blow to the OKC Police Department’s credibility.
Holtzclaw was sentenced to 263 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of four counts of first-degree rape.
With new body cameras capturing an officer’s every interaction with the public, crooked cops like Holtzclaw can hopefully be rooted out much faster.
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“When there’s an allegation something went wrong, we have proof of what exactly happened, so we can either disprove an allegation or we can continue an investigation,” Balderrama continued, according to KFOR.
The captain added that footage would enable officers to write better reports.
“I think, by offering some transparency, which is huge and, of course, accountability on both parts, whether it be the officer or the citizen,” OKC Officer Chris Brown said.
The Baltimore Police Department had conducted a pilot program in the fall of 2015, giving 150 officers body cameras, the Baltimore Sun reported. The experiment was a great success, according to Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.
“We think it makes us better,” David said, according to the Sun. “We think it makes the interactions we have with citizens better. It holds us accountable.”