Justice Dept. to help study use of body cameras in three U.S. cities, including Milwaukee

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WASHINGTON – As part of President Obama’s commitment to building trust and transparency between law enforcement and the communities they serve, Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday, September 21st announced that the Justice Department has awarded grants totaling more than $23.2 million to 73 local and tribal agencies in 32 states to expand the use of body-worn cameras and explore their impact.

The body-worn camera pilot program announced in May 2015 includes $19.3 million to purchase body-worn cameras, $2 million for training and technical assistance and $1.9 million to examine the impact of their use.

The grants, awarded by the department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), build on President Obama’s proposal to purchase 50,000 body-worn cameras for law enforcement agencies within three years.

“This vital pilot program is designed to assist local jurisdictions that are interested in exploring and expanding the use of body-worn cameras in order to enhance transparency, accountability and credibility,” said Attorney General Lynch.  “The impact of body-worn cameras touches on a range of outcomes that build upon efforts to mend the fabric of trust, respect and common purpose that all communities need to thrive.”

The grants, which require a 50/50 in-kind or cash match, can be used to purchase equipment and require that applicants establish a strong implementation plan and a robust training policy before purchasing cameras.  Each agency awarded a grant is responsible for developing a plan for long-term storage, including the cost of storing data.

In addition to funds to help purchase body-worn cameras and train officers in their use, grants under the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA’s) Smart Policing Initiative will support police departments in Miami, Milwaukee and Phoenix as they examine the impact of body-worn cameras on citizen complaints, internal investigations, privacy, community relationships and cost effectiveness.  Each of these three departments will partner with a research institution to gain insight on the merits of deploying body-worn camera programs.

Lynch announced the award Monday during a White House Champions of Change event co-hosted by OJP and the Community Oriented Policing Services Office (COPS Office).  The event honored law enforcement officers and young people who are leading efforts to improve relationships between law enforcement and youth in their communities.