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Obama wants more police wearing body cameras

02 December 2014, 08:16

Washington - Spurred by the Ferguson, Missouri shooting, President Barack Obama is calling for $75m in federal spending to get 50 000 more police to wear body cameras that record their interactions with civilians. However, Obama is not seeking to pull back federal programmes that provide military-style equipment to local law enforcement.

The president was making the announcement on Monday from the White House during a series of meetings with his Cabinet, civil rights leaders, law enforcement officials and others. At least for now, Obama is staying away from Ferguson in the wake of a racially charged uproar over a grand jury's decision last week not to charge the police officer who fatally shot unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Obama is proposing a three-year $263m spending package to increase use of body-worn cameras, expand training for law enforcement and add more resources for police department reform. The package includes $75m for the small, lapel-mounted cameras to record police on the job.

The White House has said the cameras could help bridge deep mistrust between law enforcement and the public. It also potentially could help resolve the type of disputes between police and witnesses that arose in the Ferguson shooting.

After the shooting and resulting protests in August, Obama ordered a review of federal programmes that fund military gear for local police after critics questioned why police in full body armor with armoured trucks responded to dispel demonstrators. Obama seemed to sympathise when announcing the review over the summer.

"There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don't want those lines blurred," Obama said at the time.

Also read: Ferguson cop quits police force

Senior administration officials said on Friday that five federal agencies have programmes to supply the equipment that are authorised by Congress, but Obama's focus is not supporting legislation to repeal them but to make sure there are standards to make sure the equipment is used safely.

Obama's staff is drafting an executive order that will require federal agencies that run the programmes to work with law enforcement and civil rights and civil liberties organisations to recommend changes.

Demands for police to wear the cameras have increased across the country since Brown's death. Some officers in the St Louis suburb have since started wearing the cameras, and the New York Police department became the largest department in the US to adopt the technology when it launched a pilot programme in early September.

- AP


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