The Metropolitan Police Department should outfit its officers with on-body cameras as a way to resolve citizen complaints and train officers on department procedures, according to a report the Police Complaints Board submitted today to Police Chief Cathy Lanier and Mayor Vince Gray.
This is far from a new idea in the District, and Lanier doesn’t need much convincing on the merits: In February, she listed officer-mounted body cameras as one of her department’s top five priorities. And at a budget oversight hearing last Friday, Lanier, who didn’t get into specifics, said there was money in her budget to launch a pilot program to purchase and test a number of different types of cameras on officers who want to participate. She didn’t provide a timeline, only saying that “we will be rolling [the pilot program] out.”
“These records can help to protect the public in cases of officer misconduct,” Lanier wrote about the cameras in a February report in advance of an oversight hearing. “It also protects officers from spurious complaints. With the proliferation of cell phones used for recording purposes, more and more police interactions are recorded and made public every day. However, they rarely show the entire interaction.”
Because the chief is already on board, Christian Klossner, the deputy director for the office of police complaints, says the report serves as a guide for how his office wants the program to be implemented in the department. The police complaints board operates independently of the police department, and its report holds no legal weight.
The board’s report calls for the MPD to establish an advisory panel comprised of representatives from MPD, the Office of Police Complaints, the Fraternal Office of Police, the District’s Office of the Attorney General, the ACLU, and others.
“In the event that MPD decides to launch a pilot program prior to convening the recommended panel, it should be allowed to do so, but should permit OPC to provide real-time input and feedback to MPD as the expedited program takes shape and is implemented,” the OPC report reads.
The use of cameras in other police departments throughout the country has spurred country questions of privacy. The complaints board’s report doesn’t address this issue in much depth, but says that creating a broad advisory would allow for privacy experts to weigh in.
“[On-body cameras] will make our process not only quicker, but also more accurate,” Klossner tells City Desk.
The full report can be read below:
Camera photo via Shutterstock