Obama proposes buying 50,000 police body cameras
Additionally, the White House said that the controversial Pentagon program which transfers old equipment – including vehicles and other military gear – to local police departments will remain largely intact, though more money will be used to improve training and reform law enforcement agencies across the United States.
Specifically, Obama pledged to use $75 million to purchase tens of thousands of body cameras for police departments. That money can buy up to 50,000 cameras for the roughly 750,000 officers across the country.
If authorized by Congress, the money for the cameras, which each state would have to match in order to receive, would be allocated over three years. The remaining $188 million would be used not only for training, but also for creating outreach programs intended to build trust between communities and law enforcement, The Hill reported.
The move comes about a week after a St. Louis County grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against a white police officer for fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. The decision has sparked nationwide protests against allegations of excessive force by police.
In a public statement made after a meeting with civil rights leaders and law enforcement officials, Obama said the US would work toward reducing the “simmering distrust” between police and communities of color. The president added that he does not want to see a “militarized” police culture moving forward.
“This time will be different because the President of the United States is deeply invested in making sure that this time is different,” he said. “It violates my belief in what America can be to hear young people feeling marginalized and distrustful even after they’ve done everything right. That’s not who we are. That’s not who the overwhelming majority of Americans want us to be.”
Aside from making this proposal, the White House announced that its review of the Pentagon program transferring military equipment to local police discovered a “lack of consistency” regarding the way it is run. According to the report, five different government departments review applications for such equipment, though each agency uses its own method for vetting these requests.
As a result, President Obama will sign an executive order mandating that the departments develop one cohesive policy that will run across all departments for evaluating requests. The order will also allow for civilian oversight of purchases.
Still, the White House review found that the vast majority of equipment transferred actually consists of office supplies.
Only four or five percent of transfers were “controlled” equipment such as arms, night-vision equipment, and Humvees, according to ABC News.