Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) introduced a bill in Congress this week that would restrict federal funding to agencies that fail to enforce police body camera and dashcam policies. The bill is named for 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, whose 2014 killing by a Chicago police officer stunned the country and toppled Chicago’s district attorney and top police officer.
Laquan was shot 16 times by Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, but video contradicted the written accounts of police officers at the scene who claimed that Laquan lunged at them with a knife. Later released footage that showed Laquan walking away from Van Dyke, who emptied his 9 mm semi-automatic weapon into the teen while he was on the ground.
Van Dyke, who’s currently on trial for first-degree murder, allegedly intentionally damaged his dashcam recorder and failed to sync his microphone the night of Laquan’s death.
Rush’s bill, the Laquan McDonald Camera Act of 2017, would call for any law-enforcement agency not in compliance with dashcam policy to lose 10 percent of their federal funding unless the U.S. attorney general gets certification that policies are in place and are being enforced.
In a statement released Wednesday, the Chicago congressman said:
This legislation seeks to restore some of the public’s trust in law enforcement at time when trust is at an all-time low. There has been a wave of questionable police shootings that resulted in the deaths of unarmed citizens—or people who appeared to be of no threat at the time of the encounter.”
Cases, such as Laquan McDonald, Mike Brown, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are brutal illustrations on why we need a clear documentation of facts when citizen-encounters with police turn deadly.
What’s the point of having body-cams or dashboard cameras if a cop fails to turn them on or the volume is off. Having clear, enforceable policies protects both citizens and law enforcement officers when these incidents escalate.