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Clegg: Smile, we're recording

BY CHRIS CLEGG | FEBRUARY 13, 2015 5:00 AM

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Given the civil unrest sparked by events in New York City and Ferguson in July and August 2014, it should come as no surprise that lawmakers in Des Moines are drafting a bill that would require all uniformed police officers to don the much discussed and debated body cameras. While still in the drafting stage, this bill has potential to bridge the gap between law-enforcement officers and the people they are obligated to protect.

Even though the process is rather lengthy and the bill has yet to pass through several committees before making it to the floor, where it will ultimately be accepted or rejected, the future looks bright, Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, told The Daily Iowan.

“Almost all law-enforcement officials and personnel that I have spoken with seem to be on board,” he said. “We have made some hopeful strides and have a fairly decent opportunity [for] this year.”

Should this bill be enacted into law this year, it will represent both the importance of a transparent relationship between police and its residents, as well as the progressive strides Iowa has made in response to excessive force by police officers.

Hunter said the bill would include “safeguards” to protect against possible concerns related to privacy and unlawful recording.

By collaborating with the NAACP and Public Safety Committee, Hunter is working not to overlook any of the legal details that would govern how the law is put into use. The new bill would provide legal processes people could use should they feel that they are unjustly being recorded or should they not want their recorded footage released to the public. However, while the bill would safeguard against the invasion of privacy, there is one facet that could end up defeating the bill before it even makes it to the floor: funding.

“Funding is our biggest obstacle,” Hunter said.

Money would be needed for producing, distributing, and training thousands of law-enforcement agencies across the country in how to use the developing technology.

In November 2014, the Iowa City City Council unanimously overturned the proposal to allocate roughly $211,000 for body cameras for the Iowa City police. Those 84 cameras would have been enough for every police officer to have one on duty when interacting with the public, as previously reported by the DI.

Police Chief Sam Hargadine recommended the city instead invest in less expensive cameras for police officers.

According to NBC News, President Obama’s plan to bankroll such developments would provide $75 million to aid state budgets specifically for this purpose over the next three years.

In the first ever study of the effect of body cameras on police officers, Tony Farrar, police chief in Rialto, found that over a 12-month period, the number of “use of force incidents” was cut in half compared with the control group, and the number of complaints by citizens against police officers was 10 times fewer than in the previous 12 months. With these noteworthy fluctuations in police interaction with the public, combined with the rising public demand for such practices, Iowa could very well be promoting a new kind of contemporary cop.


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