Obama police task force sidesteps body cameras, wants independent probes of shootings

A police body camera (Reuters / Shannon Stapleton)

A police body camera (Reuters / Shannon Stapleton)

A task force set up by President Barack Obama to look into police behavior across the country suggests that independent prosecutors investigate officer-involved killings, though it was noncommittal on the use of body cameras.

Coming with 59
recommendations requiring research, action and further study, the
report fell short on addressing racial bias training for police.
In addition to shying away from making body cameras obligatory in
police interactions with citizens, it did not analyze
controversial policies – such as “Broken Windows” – that take aim
at low-level crimes.

The 11-person task force on police reform, due in April, had 90
days to submit best practices and recommendations detailing how
police can continue to fight crime but build public trust
following the high profile deaths of unarmed black men Michael
Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York.

READ MORE: Obama proposes buying 50,000 police
body cameras

There were to be seven public hearings but so far only four have
taken place – two in Washington, DC, one in Cincinnati, Ohio and
another in Phoenix, Arizona. None were held in New York or St.
Louis, where Brown and Garner were killed. One of the main
recommendations was to create a National Crime and Justice Task
Force to suggest more ideas.

Another was that police departments establish external and
independent teams that employ outside prosecutors to handle
investigations of fatal shootings by officers.

“A lot of our work is going to involve local police chief,
local elected officials, states recognizing that the moment is
now for us to make these changes,”
said President Obama
before starting a meeting with the task force on Monday,
according to the Associated Press.

“We have a great opportunity, coming out of some great
conflict and tragedy, to really transform how we think about
community law enforcement relations so that everybody feels safer
and our law enforcement officers feel, rather than being
embattled, feel fully supported.”

There were recommendations on training and cooperating with
communities of color, including an NAACP-endorsed idea that tasks
police with collecting data about race and other demographic
statistics related to the people they stop and arrest.

READ MORE: NY police trained to use new technique
to subdue suspects

Meanwhile, the task force suggested placing more of an effort on
record keeping, so that police departments can log when and where
police use deadly force during arrests and when an individual is
in custody. Previously, police departments reported these
statistics voluntarily.

Notably, there was little about reducing the use of
military-style weapons by local police departments, though civil
rights groups became extremely critical of the practice when
armored vehicles and other equipment were used during protests in
Ferguson following Brown’s death.

Also absent from the recommendations was one requiring police
officers to wear body cameras, an idea that has gained traction
in the US. Last year, Obama mentioned that 50,000 body cameras
would be made available to police departments with the approval
of Congress. However, the new report called the adoption of body
cameras “complex,” raising questions of privacy and cost.

Still, those concerns
haven’t stopped eight of the 10 largest police departments in the
country, including New York and Los Angeles, from outfitting some
police with body cameras. The LAPD is planning to have all
officers who interact with the public in the future wear

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