Metro Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson recently proposed a $50.1 million plan to purchase body cameras for all 1,440 of the city’s police officers and to install new dash cameras on 880 department vehicles. Although Mayor Barry has been a staunch supporter of body cameras, she raised concerns at the hearing on March 16, 2017. Her concerns were centered on the cost of this proposal in light of similar programs implemented in other states that were far less costly. Despite Mayor Barry’s concerns, Chief Anderson appears to be of the mindset that if the department is going to do it, it better be done right, and the cameras must be working at all times in order to insure public confidence.
Police body cameras, which provide video footage of arrests and encounters between police and civilians, are considered one way to reduce the potential for police misconduct. These cameras could also aid persons who are criminally charged in presenting a defense in addition to rebutting an officer’s testimony. On the flip side, the State could benefit from the video footage if it is relevant to the case and use it against the defendant at trial. For example, in a driving under the influence (DUI) case, the reason why the driver was stopped often becomes an issue. Common reasons for a traffic stop include following too closely, swerving over a traffic line, failure to come to a complete stop at a stop sign or running a red light. These “stop” issues, which fall under the probable cause standard, could be simplified by the video footage. In addition, incidents involving police officers using force or a citizen resisting arrest could also be clarified by video that will be preserved under this proposed plan.
To date, this proposed plan and its funding is essentially a work in progress, and we will keep you apprised of its progress and implementation. When and if the body and vehicle camera program is implemented, it will be a game changer in future criminal cases.
Blake Bratcher is an Associate at Freeman & Fuson.