Body Cameras & Policing: Funding

By lfsuser on July 01, 2015

Over the past year, the use of police body cameras have become a high-profile issue for police and government leaders. Should they be worn? How to pay for it? When should they be activated? Who controls the footage? Who can see the footage? These questions have spurred a national debate and legislation at the local, state, and federal levels. Over the next few weeks, AGHW will publish a series of articles regarding the body camera issue. This week’s posting addresses a threshold question: how to pay for them? At a time when many (if not most) public entities are still feeling the after-effects of the Great Recession and funding is scarce, this is a fundamental inquiry.

On the federal level, President Obama proposed (in December 2014) $263 million in funding for law enforcement agencies to purchase body-worn cameras and improve training. He proposed $75 million be allocated to the purchase of body-cameras (estimating 50,000 cameras). The initiative, known as the Body Worn Camera Partnership Program, would provide a 50% match to local governments purchasing body cameras during a 3-year period. Unfortunately, Congress did not fund the program in its year-end budget (funding the government through September 30, 2015).

Congress has taken-up the issue in its latest funding bill. On May 13, 2015, the House of Representatives included $50 million into an appropriations bill for policing-related matters ($15 million allocated for body cameras, $30 million for unspecified “justice reform and collaboration efforts,” and $5 million for improving statics collection). The House Appropriations Committee passed the bill on May 20, 2015. The entire House passed the bill on June 3, 2015, adding an additional $10 million for body camera funding (for $25 million total). The Senate has also taken up the issue. On June 11, 2015, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill for $20 million for police body cameras.

If a federal body-camera bill is signed into law, the funding would take effect the coming fiscal year (October 1, 2015).

On the state level, California has not provided local agencies money for body cameras. The State Assembly Public Safety Committee approved a funding bill (estimated at $29-$30 million) in March 2015, but the bill did not advance out of the Appropriations Committee. That bill (Assembly Bill 65) would have been a grant program (not matching funds). We will monitor the Legislature’s next session and report if funding for body cameras comes up again.

Sources:

  1. Justin Sink, Obama to Provide Funding for 50,000 Police Body Cameras, The Hill, December 1, 2014. Web. 19 June 2015.
  2. Andrea Peterson, President Obama Wants to Spend $75 million to Buy Police Bodycams, Washington Post, December 1, 2014. Web. 19 June 2015.
  3. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. Fact Sheet: Strengthening Community Policing, December 1, 2014. Web. 19 June 2015.
  4. Rebecca Shabad and Alexander Bolton, Senate Passes $1.1T Funding Bill, The Hill, December 13, 2014. Web. 19 June 2015.
  5. Rachel Bade, House GOP eyes $50 million for body cameras, policing improvements, POLITICO, May 13, 2015. Web. 19 June 2015.
  6. Rebecca Shabad, House panel advances bill that contains body camera funding, The Hill, May 20, 2015. Web. 19 June 2015.
  7. Cristina Marcos and Rebecca Shabad, House passes fourth ’16 appropriations bill, The Hill, June 3, 2015. Web. 19 June 2015.
  8. Rebecca Shabad, Senate bill includes $20M for police body cameras, The Hill, June 11, 2015. Web. 19 June 2015.
  9. Allison Gatlin, Alejo’s body-worn camera bill passes committee, The Californian, March 25, 2015. Web. 19 June 2015.
  10. Fenit Nirappil, California bills reinstating penalties for some crimes fail, Associated Press, May 28, 2015. Web. 22 June 2015.

This document is intended to provide you with general information about legal developments. The contents of this document are not intended to provide specific legal advice. If you have questions about the contents of this alert, please contact Kevin Allen at 415-697-3455 or at kallen@aghwlaw.com. This communication may be considered advertising in some jurisdictions.