Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes is pushing for all Charlotte Mecklenburg Police to have body cameras. We think it’s a good move, too.
This push comes after recent high-profile police shootings of unarmed civilians in other parts of the country and a Labor Day incident in Charlotte involving a confrontation between CMPD and an activist who was handcuffed and taken away in a police cruiser for distributing leaflets on cars, a violation of a city ordinance that observers said is rarely enforced. Onlookers shot cell phone video that was posted online.
This effort also comes nearly a year after a CMPD officer killed an unarmed 24-year-old approaching him who had apparently been involved in an accident and was seeking help. On Friday, another CMPD officer was charged with misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury and simple assault stemming from an internal investigation of an Aug. 14 incident at the police department where police say a shackled man was shoved into a wall and had his collar bone broken.
Barnes says the cameras “put us in a position to have the levels of accountability that the public expects... The more information we have, the easier it is to determine what our officers are doing, what the general public may be doing.”
The City Council earlier this year approved CMPD using asset forfeiture money to buy about 160 cameras, which police said were not yet on the streets. Up to 1,800 more are needed to equip the entire force, Barnes said. In May, the Charlotte Police Foundation provided $250,000. But city leaders say they need to find the funding to get cameras for more officers.
Finding that money is worth the effort. A pilot CMPD program last year has already indicated value. Officers who participated said suspects who knew they were being recorded were less likely to be combative. In a Sunday Viewpoint piece, Chief Rodney Monroe called the cameras an effective tool.
Greensboro police have used cameras for a year, and officials say they have helped resolve citizen complaints and conflicts, and improved officers’ interpersonal skills.
We see them of value to both the police and the public, able to provide crucial information that could help unravel what happened in confrontations, particularly those that turn deadly. More importantly, they may be able to help prevent a tragedy.