WASHINGTON -- In response to the furor over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, a senior House Democrat wants the federal government to encourage local cops to wear cameras while they're working.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is gathering signatures from other lawmakers for a letter to push Attorney General Eric Holder to help state and local law enforcement agencies acquire body-worn cameras.
"The evidence from early adopters is highly promising, and body-worn cameras have garnered support from police chiefs, rank and file officers, community organizations, and civil rights advocates," Schiff's letter says. "We believe that a dedicated federal grant program would be a worthy addition to the support the Department of Justice has historically provided to state and local law enforcement agencies."
The letter is the latest in a recent push for police body cams. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has also voiced support, as have civil liberties advocates. Supporters have said video cameras would provide an objective witness to police incidents, as well as encourage police to be more careful in the actions they take. When a California police department tried putting cameras on cops, the experiment resulted in fewer incidents of officers using force and fewer civilian complaints.
Protests erupted in Ferguson after Aug. 9, when police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Brown, who was unarmed. Details of what led to the shooting are in dispute, with police contending Brown attacked Wilson and eyewitnesses saying otherwise. Advocates of body-worn cameras say video of the incident would help settle the dispute.
"These cameras provide a visual and audio record of interactions with the public, so that in the event of a confrontation or police-involved shooting, such as the one that occurred in Ferguson, there is an inalterable record of the events," Schiff's letter says. "There are also indications that the presence of body cameras has a civilizing effect on both police officers and the public, resulting in lower incidences of excessive force complaints and deescalating tense situations before they become violent."