As Darren Wilson–related protests occur in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere, the Obama administration announced today that it will help purchase police body cameras, fund “training and outreach programs targeted at building better trust between law enforcement and their communities,” and reform the process by which military equipment is distributed by the federal government to state and local police. From The Hill:
The $263 million for cameras and training would be used by the federal government to match up to 50 percent spending by state and local police departments on body-worn cameras and storage for the equipment. The White House estimates that aspect of the program, which would cost $75 million, would help fund the purchase of 50,000 body-worn cameras.
Some context for those numbers: At latest count—a 2008 census conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics—state and local law enforcement groups in the U.S. employed 765,000 full-time sworn officers. The same census found that there are just under 18,000 state- and local-level law enforcement agencies total, which means the White House’s initiative will provide an average of about $10,000 per agency for community relations programs.
Michael Brown’s family has called for the wider use of body cameras, which could document and, presumably, deter unwarranted police violence.
On the subject of police militarization, the White House says that federal departments involved in distributing military and military-style equipment to police officers will be instructed to “develop a consistent list of equipment that police departments are eligible to acquire, require a local civilian review of all requests, and mandate police departments receive the necessary training to use the equipment properly.”