Responding to an online petition made in response to the killing of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown that quickly racked-up more than 150,000 signatures, the Obama administration announced on Monday through a written statement from White House adviser on Justice and Urban Affairs Roy Austin that while it cannot force the nation's police to wear small cameras on their uniforms by decree, it supported the growing movement within law enforcement itself to embrace the practice, reports the Associated Press.
"We support the use of cameras and video technology by law enforcement officers, and the Department of Justice continues to research best practices for implementation," Austin wrote in response to the petition, after noting that such a law would have to come from Congress, not the White House. Austin also noted that while the White House's support for the idea was secure, the administration was not unmindful about the policy change's likely costs (both financial and in terms of personal privacy).
Austin announced that the Department of Justice had plans to launch a thorough evaluation of how body cameras on police uniforms were working out for those forces that had already decided to use them. According to the Associated Press, the DOJ also has a report suggesting that when cops and civilians know their interactions are being recorded, both behave more calmly and cooperatively. The footage could prove valuable for training purposes, too.
Cameras on uniforms are not a panacea, however, Austin wrote. "Most Americans are law-abiding, and most law enforcement officers work hard day-in and day-out to protect and serve their communities," Austin reminded readers, arguing that an underlying basis of mutual respect and shared trust between police and their community will do more than a camera ever could.