A police officer’s fatal shooting of a suspect on Monday ignited calls for Raleigh officers to wear body-worn cameras – but prompted city leaders to postpone a discussion on the cameras that happened to be scheduled for the same day.
Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown was scheduled to talk about the pros and cons of requiring officers to wear body cameras, which they don’t currently use, during the City Council’s work session Monday afternoon. But city leaders postponed Deck-Brown’s presentation after receiving news about the shooting.
“We were told that the police obviously were too busy and unable to do the presentation because of the situation,” said Mayor Nancy McFarlane.
Police body cameras became an oft-cited solution to providing insight into officer-suspect conflicts after police shot and killed an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. With tensions rising, President Barack Obama last year announced $20 million in funding for law enforcement agencies interested in using the cameras.
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The N.C. General Assembly last year approved $2.5 million for law enforcement agencies that want to buy the cameras. An agency could receive up to $100,000 for cameras, as long as it pays $2 for every $1 the state matches.
Garner is testing the cameras. But none of the Triangle’s largest municipalities – Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill or Cary – require officers to wear them.
Some saw Monday’s shooting and the lack of information provided by the Raleigh Police Department as proof the cameras are needed.
“The public and the victim’s family deserve answers about today’s shooting,” said Sarah Preston, acting Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina. “On a day when the Raleigh City Council was scheduled to discuss officer worn body cameras, this shooting points to the urgent need for North Carolina’s second-largest city’s police department to adopt this crucial technology and an accompanying policy that guarantees it will be used to promote officer accountability and transparency.”
The city is “moving toward using them,” McFarlane said of the cameras. But the timing and extent of their use in Raleigh is unclear. trim Neither city police or city staff on Monday disclosed how many cameras they might buy or how many video storage databases they might need.
“That’s what we were going to talk about today,” said McFarlane. Raleigh police didn’t supply council members with information prior to the meeting, she said.
Deck-Brown’s presentation on body cameras was the last of four items on the agenda. The City Council doesn’t typically take official votes during work sessions, so it’s unlikely that members would have taken a vote on the cameras.
Deck-Brown was expected to provide “an overview of a new tool” Raleigh police may employ, according to the work session agenda. “The presentation will address different technological approaches, resources requirements and potential next steps,” it reads.