Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department poised to buy officer body cameras

cwootson@charlotteobserver.comApril 14, 2014 

Officers conducting traffic stops and responding to 911 calls could begin wearing cameras that record their interactions with civilians as early as this summer.

On Monday, city council gave the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department the go-ahead to start the process to buy enough cameras to equip two divisions. The council would still have to approve a contract for the cameras, which would be funded by $250,000 of drug asset forfeiture money. The request passed unanimously.

The cameras, which can be clipped to glasses, a collar or other parts of an officer’s uniform, would supplement aging “dash cams” in police cars and provide video and audio of routine traffic stops, arrests and calls for service involving weapons or suspicious people.

Officers who participated in a pilot program in September say suspects who know they’re being recorded are less likely to be combative.

“We have had some instances where officers said some people were a little more uncooperative before the cameras,” CMPD Maj. Steve Willis said.

The cameras also could provide critical footage of what happens when police officers use force against a suspect.

Willis said that if the purchases receive final approval, the $250,000 could provide enough cameras to equip about 160 officers, though it wasn’t clear Monday if officers would have to share cameras.

Critics of the camera program have contended that footage should be available to the public. Police have said the footage would not be a public record.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson

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