Councilwoman Moore Seeks Study on APD Body Cameras

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(APN) ATLANTA — The shooting of an unarmed teen by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri has spurred the City Council of Atlanta to take action.  

 

On Monday, August 18, 2014, the Council unanimously passed legislation by Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong (District 5) to implore U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder require local police to install surveillance cameras in their vehicles.

 

Now, the Council’s Public Safety/Legal Administration Committee on Tuesday, August 26, is going to consider legislation sponsored by Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9), for a ninety-day feasibility study on whether to require Atlanta Police Department (APD) vehicles to have security cameras, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

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Moore’s proposal would examine the feasibility of requiring APD officers to wear body cameras at all times while on duty.

 

“Watching the coverage of what happened in Ferguson was heartbreaking, and I want to prevent a situation like that happening here in Atlanta,” Moore told Atlanta Progressive News.

 

“The use of body cameras would be good for police officers because it protects them from false complaints, and for citizens because it protects them from abuse by the police.  In any kind of incident, the camera would make clear who said and did what,” Moore said.

 

Similar measures have been taken in other jurisdictions, resulting in a large reduction in use of force and excessive force complaints.

 

In a yearlong study by the Police Foundation, police chief Tony Farrar of the Rialto Police Department, in Rialto, California, joined with Cambridge University researcher Dr. Barak Ariel Cambridge University to research the effect of body-worn cameras on citizen complaints and the use of force by Rialto, Calif. police officers.  The study began in February 2013 and concluded after twelve months.

 

In their award-winning 2013 report, the authors found that instances of use of force by police officers wearing cameras occurred fifty percent less often, compared to officers without cameras.

 

The nearly ten-fold reduction in citizen complaints against officers wearing cameras was “so large that there were not enough complaints to conduct any meaningful analyses.”

 

The authors concluded, “the study was able to expose what happens when the level of certainty of apprehension for professional misconduct was set at 100%.”

 

Moore’s proposal aims to bring the same technology and results to Atlanta.  Moore is requesting the APD conduct a feasibility study into the use of body-worn cameras, and report their findings with a recommendation to the City Council within ninety days.

 

“I don’t want to see what happened in Ferguson happen here, and we should take action to prevent that,” Moore said.  Moore’s proposal is slated for discussion in Tuesday’s upcoming PS/LA Committee meeting at City Hall in Committee Room Two at 2pm.

 

On August 09, 2014, Officer Wilson in Ferguson, who is White, shot eighteen-year-old Michael Brown, who is Black.

 

The shooting exposed simmering tensions between residents of the city and the Ferguson police force.  According to the latest U.S. Census data, over two-thirds of the residents are Clack. Police Chief Thomas Jackson recently told local media 94 percent Ferguson’s police officers are White.

 

Eyewitness accounts of the shooting are wildly divergent, with some stating Brown was shot as he surrendered with his hands in the air, and others claiming Brown attacked Wilson.

 

However, according to Councilwoman Archibong, the question of exactly what happened on that hot August afternoon could have been answered had Wilson’s patrol car been equipped with dashboard cameras.

 

“Across the country stories have been reported about alleged police misconduct,” Archibong said in a statement.  “Dashboard cam videos often play an important role in documenting interactions between law enforcement and citizens.”

 

On Monday, the City Council passed the resolution with all present members voting in favor, 13 to zero.  Councilmembers Carla Smith (District 1) and Cleta Winslow (District 4) were absent.

 

The resolution states that, if patrol officer’s vehicle had a camera in Ferguson, the differing accounts by witnesses could have been resolved.  It further requests Holder “use his considerable influence to impress upon local police agencies the need for the installation of cameras in their vehicles.”  

 

According to a release from the Council, the U.S Department of Justice (DOJ) provides grants for local law enforcement to install video cameras in police vehicles.

 

Archibong told APN that the APD already has cameras installed in newer cars, and that as older patrol cars are removed from service, the APD plans to equip replacement vehicles with surveillance cameras.

 

Archibong’s resolution awaits Mayor Kasim Reed’s signature and will be forwarded to the USDOJ and the City Clerk of Ferguson.

 

(END/2014)

 

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