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Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer yesterday outlined an ambitious plan to equip all LMPD officers with body cameras, a project that will be implemented over the next year; suggesting that it should lead to improved policing, greater transparency and an even safer city. The Mayor is proposing the $2.8 million project in his 2015-2016 Fiscal Year budget, which will be unveiled on May 28 and sent to Metro Council for consideration.
“Last year, we began to hear calls nationwide — and from our citizens, locally — about the importance of improved policing and the need to embrace modern technology that would record police and citizen interactions,” Fischer said. “From Ferguson, Missouri to Baltimore, Maryland, it has become clear that our country has changed and that police departments and citizens must change with it.”
In June, the city will pilot a body camera program in the 5th Division, which includes the Highlands/Crescent Hill neighborhoods. “This will give our officers and commanders time to get adjusted to cameras and to learn about their capabilities and limitations before rolling them out citywide,” Police Chief Steve Conrad said.
Conrad said the vast majority of police-citizen interactions are done well and respectfully, but having another tool such as body cameras is valuable for both officers and the public. “There is strong support for this project,” Conrad said.
The new proposed budget includes money that will buy about 1,000 cameras, MetroWatch and dashboard cameras, the software to operate them and the cloud computing technology to manage the vast amounts of data. The money would come from three sources – federal drug forfeiture funds, city general fund dollars and some from a note, a short-term debt. The money will also be used to help manage the camera program, including people to review the footage as it is requested for court cases, by lawyers and the media via open records requests.
Fischer said body cameras are but one strategy — albeit an important one — in creating a modern police force. “We must continue to dedicate ourselves to better police/citizen relationships both nationally and in Louisville. We must still work on creating a more diverse police force - one that reflects all the faces of Louisville,” Fischer said, “and we must continue to dialogue and truly hear one another so our city is not the next Ferguson or the next Baltimore.”
Louisville Councilman David James (D-6) commented: “I support the Mayor on this very important public safety initiative and I am very excited that we are moving in this direction. I have had many calls from the people I represent who want to see LMPD using body cameras. When it comes to having contact with a police officer, it allows us to have a better understanding how things transpired during a police citizen encounter.”