Obama Administration Puts $20 Million Toward Police Body Cams

Taken outside Los Angeles Police Department Headquarters in March 2015.

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

On Friday the Justice Department announced a $20 million body camera program that will fund grants for purchasing devices, offering training, and evaluating implementation. The money is part of $75 million that President Obama proposed earmarking for body cams over three years.

Body cams are costly, but their use has become a high priority as more controversial incidents of police violence occur around the country. The Los Angeles Police Commission approved body cam rules on Tuesday, as the city prepares to equip officers with the devices. Baltimore has also been working on a body cam pilot, which is being expedited in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death. On Wednesday, presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said every police department should use body cams.

“Body-worn cameras hold tremendous promise for enhancing transparency, promoting accountability, and advancing public safety for law enforcement officers and the communities they serve,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

The $20 million will supplement local funding and is targeted at police departments that already have body cam policies settled. As Reuters points out, departments that receive part of the $20 million will be supervised by the Bureau of Justice Statistics to collect information about how the cameras are implemented in the field and how effective they are.

Body cams are complicated tools and certainly won’t solve all policing problems, but putting real funding behind them is the best way to evolve their role.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of Freddie Gray’s death.