D.C. Police to Test Body Cameras for Several Months

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Starting Oct. 1, D.C. police officers will start testing body cameras across all eight wards of the District. News4's Mark Segraves did some digging for answers on just how and when the cameras will be used. (Published Thursday, Sep 4, 2014)

    Some D.C. police officers are just weeks away from testing body cameras, meant to provide more transparency in policing though civil liberties groups are concerned 

    The Washington Times reported some officers with the Metropolitan Police Department will begin a 6-month testing phase Oct. 1. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has said she is committed to implementing the cameras -- the city was provided with $1 million in their budget for the pilot program according to spokeswoman Gwen Crump. 

    Nearby Laurel Police Department has been using the cameras for two years, and has been consulting with D.C. police on best practices. Laurel police activate the camera any time they interact with someone in a public place, turn it off when they enter homes and never use them when responding to sex assaults.

    Though D.C. police have a lot of specifics to work through regarding their guidelines for the cameras, council member Tommy Wells said there has to be consideration regarding domestic violence as well as street protests.

    "Lets say there’s a domestic violence report and you're going into someones home or a sex assault and you'd rather not be on camera to discuss it.

    "You don't want to seem like a police state that's identifying protesters, but you want police to be accountable for how they handle large protests," Wells said.

    Civil liberties groups, like the ACLU, say there are a lot of questions left to answer.

    "Are they initiated for every single police interaction? Can the person ask whether or not to turn that camera off?" Monica Hopkins-Maxwell, the former director of the ACLU-NCA said.

    D.C. police have yet to decide if they'll be using the head-mounted, shoulder-mounted or chest-mounted cameras -- each providing a different perspective. All of the images captured are sent to a storage cloud, where police and prosecutors can view it but cannot manipulate or edit the footage.