The City of Denver is working overtime to reverse the negative publicity generated of late by local law-enforcement agencies. Last week, draft reforms were released in regard to the Denver Sheriff Department. And now, the Denver Police Department, which has seen at least eight officers get into trouble this year alone, has rolled out a carefully managed PR campaign about a body-camera pilot program that included an appearance by Police Chief Robert White on last night's edition of Rachel Maddow's MSNBC program. Videos, photos and additional details below.
Police body cameras have been a popular topic among reformers for quite some time -- and as Maddow noted during one of two segments shared here, numerous reports have shown that their use by assorted agencies across the country typically generate significant declines in excessive-force complaints.
Additional interest in the cameras cropped up following the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri -- a disturbing tragedy that's caused unrest and protest in the St. Louis-area community for weeks. If the officer who shot Brown had been wearing a body camera, numerous observers have noted, we would have a much better idea at this point if his actions were justifiable or criminal.
As such, the timing of the DPD's announcement that it has requested $1.5 million in next year's budget to expand the body-camera program couldn't have been better.
The department has already been utilizing some body cameras thanks to a six-month pilot program affiliated with the University of Cambridge. Approximately 125 of the devices were supplied to officers working LoDo by Taser International at no cost, presumably with the idea of future sales down the road. And this strategy appears to have been a success: The DPD's so happy with the results that they plan to buy 800 more body cameras to be worn by patrol, traffic and gang officers.
The cameras won't be rolling all the time. An officer can turn them on and off, although they'll be required to activate them whenever they're on a call or making a traffic stop -- the implication being that exceptions to this rule will raise a red flag, particularly if a questionable action takes place when nothing is being recorded.
Yesterday's press conference announcing the planned body-camera buy generated plenty of positive press locally, and White's appearance on the Maddow program did the same nationally. The result was a publicity coup for Denver law enforcers, who desperately needed one.
Continue to see the DPD body camera video, followed by two Maddow clips -- the first setting up the issue (with Maddow beginning by talking about a Colorado-friendly topic, marijuana), the second featuring the White interview.
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