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Editorial: Don't procrastinate on body cameras

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 19, 2014 5:00 AM

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Two months ago, the Iowa City City Council decided to fund around $211,000 for body cameras for the Iowa City police. The 84 body cameras would be enough for every police officer to have one when on duty to monitor interactions with the public.

But this decision has been overturned by City Council in favor of a different approach on a 7-0 vote at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Prompted by Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine, the city has instead chosen to invest in a more inexpensive cameras for police officers.

Hargadine believes this course of action will be more fiscally responsible and will also ensure that the technology in the cameras will be as up-to-date as possible. 

There is no denying the motives of both the City Council and Hargadine when it comes to installing the cameras. The Iowa City police have tested the cameras earlier this year and has worked with the council to get the funding.

It is imperative, though, that the initiative to buy the body cameras doesn’t get lost in the agenda now that the funding has been repealed for a cheaper option.

Hargadine compared the need to wait on buying body cameras to buying a new cell phone; you don’t want to buy it when a newer one is coming out soon.

Considering the price is one thing, but just like buying a new cell phone or choosing to wait for the newer one, procrastination can ensue.

In addition to putting off buying the cameras, the reasons behind funding for them in the first place could be lost over time.

Those reasons include cases such as the police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, who shot and killed Michael Brown, resulting in violent protests, looting, and rioting by the citizens there.

The Brown case, still being considered by a grand jury, could much more easily bring the answers to the questions behind the shooting that took place if the Ferguson police had body cameras to show what happened. 

What happened to Brown was horrific. The world learned about Brown because his death prompted televised riots. It would be more of a shame if a lesson wasn’t learned from what happened.

Police officers, by using body cameras, would be held accountable for their actions. The body cameras could be used as evidence in a courtroom to determine innocence or guilt of a person. By using this surveillance, an officer who steps outside the bounds of the law could be relieved of her or his duties.  On the other hand, the footage from a body camera can also vindicate an accused officer in the court of public opinion.

We have police to serve and protect us, and these body cameras will ensure that. Let the message from Ferguson not be lost when considering other camera options and prolonging the final decision to invest in police surveillance.


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