Police Body Cams: DOJ Unveils $20M Program to Expand Use

Pete Williams and Alastair Jamieson

A $20 million pilot program to extend the use of police body cameras for "transparency" was announced by the Department of Justice on Friday, amid nationwide protests over police treatment of suspects.

A string of recent cases — the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white officer in Ferguson, Mo., the killing of a homeless man on Los Angeles' Skid Row and most recently the spinal injury while in police custody that led to the death of Baltimore's Freddie Gray — have prompted calls for greater transparency from authorities and more adoption of body cameras.

"Body-worn cameras hold tremendous promise for enhancing transparency, promoting accountability, and advancing public safety for law enforcement officers and the communities they serve," new Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a press release.

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The scheme includes $17 million in competitive grants for cameras, $2 million for training and technical assistance, and $1 million for evaluation.

The pilot was announced on the day that protesters were planning more large demonstrations in Baltimore and around the country — and hours after San Francisco's mayor said he wants to spend $6.6 million over two years to equip every patrol officer with a body-worn camera, according to NBC Bay Area.

Police agencies across the country have begun outfitting officers with the cameras, with encouragement from the Obama administration, which has asked Congress for increased funding for the devices.

Baltimore mayor under fire for slow response