After nine months of community engagement and two separate votes by the D.C. Council, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed legislation on Dec. 30 to equip 2,800 Metropolitan Police Department officers with body cameras.
Hailed as one of the most expansive body camera programs in the nation, the measure prioritizes public access to recordings, requires bi-annual reporting on the program, and protects the privacy rights of individuals in their homes as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
“It’s an accountability tool,” Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), chair of the Judiciary Committee responsible for the program, told D.C. ABC affiliate WJLA. “You want to see a better relationship between the police and the community. We want to be able to build that trust, and it’s my hope from some of the places that have done it, we can reduce complaints against officers, protect law enforcement, and at the same time protect our citizens.”
The program implements the recommendations of President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force. It is the result of an advisory group of stakeholders that included Delroy Burton, head of the D.C. Police Union; the ACLU; DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence; the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia; the Open Government Coalition; the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press; and the Office of the Attorney General.
Neighborhood organizations that testified during body camera hearings included the Sasha Bruce Youth Network, Empower DC, Alliance of Concerned Black Men, and DC Safe.
McDuffie added that 400 cameras have already been outfitted for officers in the 5th and 7th Districts. He said 2,400 additional cameras have been ordered; 700 are set to arrive by February, and the remainder by the summer.