Add Delaware to the list of state and local governments that are considering the use of body cameras for police officers in the wake of civil unrest between law enforcement agencies and the African-American community.
On Friday, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell brought together the state’s leadership from the NAACP to meet with law enforcement leaders to discuss issues between the police and the African-American community along with ways to help ensure the safety of state residents.
The meeting specifically addressed future use of body cameras by law enforcement. The two sides agreed that use of the cameras is inevitable and a positive step, but that some key questions must be resolved before they are deployed to ensure their success, Markell said.
“I thank the leaders of the State NAACP for all of their efforts to advance civil rights in our state,” Markell said in a statement. “We had an important discussion laying out the issues that need to be resolved to responsibly introduce body cameras in our state. Just as importantly, we talked about the need to continue to have an open dialogue about the issues facing our African-American community and to help build trust between their community and our law enforcement.”
The call for police to wear body cameras has grown louder since the police shooting of Michael Brown earlier this year in Ferguson, Missouri. The belief is that if police are wearing body cameras, the officers and those they are interacting with will act in more cautiously knowing their every move is being recorded.
Since that time, President Barack Obama has pledged to donate resources to state and local governments to look into body camera programs, in part, because of a petition that was signed in the days and weeks following Brown’s shooting.
Some large cities have already taken the steps to give them to police officers. Los Angeles just announced last week it would equip all officers in the coming year with cameras while other major cities, such as Washington, D.C., and Seattle, are beginning pilot programs to test the technology.
There are a number of issues, though, that surround the use of body cameras. The first set revolves around civil liberties and setting clear guidelines for when and how the cameras could be used. Privacy groups, for the most part, support the use of cameras, but only once a dialogue with community leaders has taken place to establish distinctive procedures that protect citizen privacy.
Also, with police officers constantly collecting video content, municipalities will need to find cost-affordable ways to store, tag and protect all of the information that is being brought in.
Delaware mentioned these issues as something it is working through in the coming months as it further explores bringing in cameras.
“We know the use of body cameras is inevitable and we view these cameras as a positive step that can help protect the rights of citizens and the police,” said Lewis Schiliro, secretary of the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security. “We will need to address privacy, procedural, and technical issues and look forward to continuing to work with NAACP and other organizations to get our policies right around these cameras.”