The White House is all for law enforcement wearing body cameras, an official said, but there are many factors to take into consideration in the implementation of such a practice, which is not the cure-all for the mistrust between law-enforcement officials and their communities.
It has been more than a month since Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot unarmed Ferguson, Mo., teen Michael Brown to death. A petition launched in August at the White House site We the People, calling for body cameras to ensure more police accountability, received more than 150,000 responses, prompting a response by the White House.
“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," Roy L. Austin Jr., deputy assistant to the president for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity in the Domestic Policy Council, wrote in response to the petition.
Austin also referenced a report by the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office and the Police Executive Research Forum touting the benefits of body cameras, which include more positive behavior on the part of both civilian and officer.
However, Austin also pointed that while the cameras may help ease the distrust between communities and officers, the technology would not solve the problem in and of itself.
“We also know that cameras alone will not solve the problem where there is mistrust between police and communities. As a nation, we must continue to address this lack of trust,” the adviser wrote. “Most Americans are law abiding and most law enforcement officers work hard day in and day out to protect and serve their communities. When there is trust between community and law enforcement agency, crimes are more easily solved. And when community members and officers know that they will be treated with fairness and respect, public safety is enhanced.”
Austin said the Justice Department is also working on the most efficient way to make use of the technology so that it can be put to better use in the future. However, there are costs in the undertaking that “cannot be ignored,” he said, as well as unprecedented questions about privacy and access to the footage taken by the cameras.
Read the full response here.