About 1,510 Cleveland, Ohio police will be equipped with body cameras, nearly 10 weeks after an officer shot and killed a 12-year-old Tamir Rice who was holding a toy gun on a playground, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Wednesday’s announcement makes Cleveland the latest city to equip officers with body cameras as a measure of transparency in the aftermath of high profile deaths by White officers of Black and unarmed citizens, including in New York City. The shootings have generated ongoing protests against police violence in the Black community.
In Cleveland about two months ago, Police OfficerTimothy Loehmann shot and killed Tamir Rice, who was holding a toy gun, seconds after approaching the child from his patrol car, sparking cries for reforms in the police department and lawsuits by the family.
Cleveland spent $2.4 million to outfit nearly all of the city’s 1,510 officers with Taser’s Axon Flex body-worn cameras, and at least 200 officers in one of the city’s high-crime neighborhoods are expected to begin wearing the devices by the end of the week, according to Det. Jennifer Ciaccia, a police spokeswoman.
“The cameras will provide accurate documentation of police/citizen encounters and assist with reporting, evidence collection and court testimony,” the department said in a statement. “Body-worn cameras have been shown to reduce the number of complaints and use-of-force incidents in law enforcement.”
Police officials say the department has been researching the use of body cameras since 2012 and that some officers began wearing them as part of a pilot program last summer, the report says:
Civil rights advocates, however, say they think the department sped up its decision to deploy the body cameras because of Tamir’s death as well as a Department of Justice investigation that found Cleveland police routinely use excessive force.
“The ACLU has been getting complaints about the department since the beginning of time,” said Chris Link, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. “They’ve paid out millions of dollars in settlements to avoid the publicity of the courtroom, so cameras have always been on the list as one of the strategies.”…
“The community is demanding cameras. Cameras are fine — they’re a tool — but tools are only as good as the people that control them,” Link said.
Besides adding the cameras, we hope the department will also address issues of police training, which appears to be sorely needed in departments across the country.