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Pastors Suggest Body Cams in Wake of Police Shootings

Steve Wagner

Last week, a group of Indianapolis pastors gathered as members of the Interdenominational Presidents Commission to announce recommendations for the improvement of police-community relations, particularly as it related to police brutality and officer-involved shooting. Many of the clergy present belong to other faith-based groups or ministers’ alliances, such as the Ten Point Coalition, a faith-based, anti-crime alliance.

In the wake of multiple recent police shootings in Indianapolis, including the shooting of unarmed Kevin Hicks in early April, the pastors came together to discuss policies geared toward transparency, increasing trust, and decreasing the number of conflicts between police and the African-American community.

During a press conference on April 18, the group of clergy shared their proposals, including:

  • Development of a policy for more expeditious release of video and audio captured during officer-involved shootings;
  • Mandatory body-cameras for all patrol officers;
  • Implementation of new implicit bias training for officers;
  • Creation of a task force, to include input from the community, to examine accountability for shootings and other incidents;
  • Creation of a shared definition of transparency, mutually-agreed upon by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) and community leadership;
  • Discontinuation of the pre-adjudication release of criminal histories/mug shots of people killed in officer-involved shootings.

Reverend Charles Harrison hopes that releasing video and audio footage earlier will help to lower tensions between the IMPD and the community. Within the community, he says, there is deep mistrust when the story told is narrated solely by police, precisely because those stories have too often been untrue.

IMPD Response

According to Captain Rick Riddle of the IMPD, the department already utilizes or plans to implement many of the suggestions; however, he notes there are cases where the IMPD is limited by the policies of other departments. In the case of releasing video, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office actually makes their determination after the video is turned in as evidence.

And while the City-County Council had approved funding for an introductory body camera program, there are new concerns over recent legislation requiring copies to be kept a minimum of 190 days. This legislation has caused the IMPD to rethink the amount of equipment they can really manage, as current use in other police departments shows large city police departments with body-camera programs are struggling to store 10,000 hours of video a week.

Impact of Body Camera Use

The data on this topic is just beginning to be systematically reviewed and analyzed. In 2014, a report published by the Office of Justice Programs concluded there was not yet enough evidence to make conclusive recommendations; however, it also stated the empirical evidence show clear documentation that body cameras coincide with a reduction in complaints against officers, as well as a reduction in the use of force.

Recently, a report by the San Diego Police Department indicated great promise for the use of body cameras. There, the use of body cameras has resulted in a 40.5% decrease in complaints against officers. There has also been a 46.5% reduction in the use of “personal body” force by officers.

While some police departments and officers are just downright resistant to mandatory body cameras, there are legitimate concerns. For example, there are questions about privacy (citizen and officer) and technology. With initial data showing significant positive effects, it is likely the use of body cameras will spread. Concerns about privacy and technology will need to be addressed so as not to negatively impact effective implementation and use of these tools, which, at least initially, appear to provide protection for both citizens and officers.

Have Your Civil Rights Been Violated? Were You a Victim of Excessive Force?

If you or a family member has been a victim of the excessive use of force by a police officer, the Indianapolis-based attorneys at Wagner Reese will fight for justice on your behalf. Call us today for a free consultation: (888) 204-8440.

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