Events in Ferguson, Missouri, last month have led some legislators to finally acknowledge the necessity of cameras for cops—both body cameras and dash cameras, neither of which are yet ubiquitous. Unlike the "free" military gear from the feds, cameras for cops cost, and Democrats in Illinois want those cameras paid for through higher fines. Via the Associated Press:
State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, a Peoria Democrat, introduced a bill allowing police departments to apply for grants to purchase either body cameras or video recording equipment for squad cars. She told reporters in Springfield the proposal would be funded by an additional $6 surcharge on fines for criminal or traffic offense convictions, which she estimates would bring in $4 million to $6 million annually.
Gordon-Booth and other backers of the bill may have found it impossible to avoid all the news coming out of Ferguson, but they did manage to avoid the parts that threaten their bread and butter, like Radley Balko's expose at The Washington Post, which revealed how law enforcement agencies in the St. Louis area use petty law enforcement and the fines associated with it to run their own "fiefdoms."
Body cameras and dash cams are important tools for policing—they protect residents from police abuse and police officers from false accusations. But as police departments enjoy military gear, cutting edge tech, and all kinds of generous benefits and privileges, local and state governments need to find money for police cameras in already existing budgets, not look to put the squeeze even further on poor and marginalized communities to pay for them.
At least one Illinois legislator gets it. Jim Durkin, the republican leader in the Illinois House, supports body cameras but told the AP he was concerned about using a fee increase to pay for them.
h/t Mark Sletten