Dallas Approves Millions For Body Cameras After Police Shoot Mentally Ill Man

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Casey Harper Contributor
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Less than a year after a body camera captured Dallas police fatally shooting a mentally ill man, Dallas’ City Council approved $3.7 million to buy 1,000 more of the devices.

The department will buy 400 cameras initially and then pay for the remainder over five years to equip the police force of 3,500, The Dallas Morning News reports.

The department expects officers to turn on their cameras any time they are performing any police function, and they must have an explanation for when they turn them off.

“We want the community to feel comfortable … that we’re not afraid to videotape ourselves,” Assistant Chief Tom Lawrence, the head of the project, told WFAA. “We want the officers to be protected from false allegations.”

In June of 2014, two police officers visited a home in Dallas where they regularly received calls about a mentally ill man. When police arrived at the home, the mentally ill man, Jason Harrison, was fatally shot by police when he ignored police commands and came towards them while holding a screwdriver.

The incident was captured on one officer’s body camera, touching off a local debate on the value of the devices. Experts, however, could not agree, even with the footage, if the shooting was justified, suggesting that body cameras may not be the silver bullet advocates hope for.

The Obama administration has pledged to spend $75 million to purchase body cameras to increase police accountability.

The effort is part of a larger criminal justice reform movement from the White House driven by a series of police brutality cases where officers face criminal charges and police departments engage in reforms handed down by the Justice Department.

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