Police body cameras seen as more essential than ever

Body cams, race relations in Shreveport

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - People and local governments across the country are paying close attention to the unfolding situation in Minneapolis.

One issue that keeps coming up is the purchase of more police body cameras. The events unfolding right now in Minneapolis have risen the specter once again about the need for more body cameras.

The Shreveport Police Department has 90 body cameras at the moment but the department’s 5-year plan calls for buying 400 body cameras or all officers.

For just one stark example of the need for body cameras is seen with what some called Shreveport’s Mother’s Day melee in 2019. Ultimately, it was police body camera footage that led a Caddo Parish grand jury to decline charging any of the four people arrested that day.

Instead, it was two police officers who faced criminal charges.

Advocates call it the power of body cameras.

Just ask recently retired Shreveport City Councilman Willie Bradford. He’s been a strong supporter of the those wearable cameras, first to give citizens at least some peace of mind.

“They would know that however way they’re approached by the police that they’re being videoed and they’re going to be respectful and they’re going to expect that the police are going to be respectful," Bradford said. "If they’re not successful then they feel like they have evidence to show that they did nothing wrong and the police was the aggressor.”

It also protects officers wearing a bodycam because it can show them acting according to the law.

Body camera debate in Shreveport

At a news conference on Thursday, Police Chief Ben Raymond told the gathered media about their plans to buy more cameras.

“I continue to support the purchase of body cameras for all of our uniformed police officers along with policies directing their use while on duty," Chief Raymond said. "And I hope to work with council to identify funding for that need.”

Finding that funding source could be critical considering the price for all those body cameras is about $5 million.

However, when you consider the city council faces a $25 million budget shortfall caused by the COVID Pandemic — paying for those cameras could require some heavy lifting politically.

Because many call police body cameras as an essential role for law enforcement, some contend Shreveport Police should spend the money now to do it. But, it’s not so easy. The city’s charter requires a balanced budget. Yet, huge cuts are already expected city-wide.

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