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Cities struggle to fund body cameras

Annie Ropeik
Delaware Public Media
The body camera worn by New Castle County Police

Some local governments have worked for years to find funding for law enforcement body cameras - and in some cases waited for the state legislature to step in and help.



When Dover City Council voted on its budget last week, one topic of debate was spending money to buy body cameras for the Dover Police Department.

That debate was quelled when Mayor Robin Christiansen said the state Attorney General and Governor are looking into statewide funding for the cameras.

But AG Kathy Jennings says that funding could take a while and recommends cities find their own way to purchase body cameras - an option many cities may find difficult since the COVID-19 has left them strapped for revenue.

Christiansen says state officials need to be held accountable for their promises.

“If they’re gonna mandate and make such a promise to the community just to get people off their backs, they should follow through on that. And like I said, in a state this size, buying power of one entity will certainly make is cheaper and easier to maintain if the state takes the bull by the horns and follow through on promises of the Governor and Attorney General”

Christiansen and some Dover City Council members are worried this promise could turn out like ones in the past. Body camera funding has come before the state legislature before, and failed due to high costs.

“You know my father once quoted to me one thing, promises made in the midst of a storm are often forgotten in calm waters,” Christiansen says. “And I don’t think this is a situation where promises made in the middle of a storm should be forgotten in calm waters.”

The push for body cameras has gained strength - with the Legislative Black Caucus' Justice for All agenda including a bill requiring body camera use.  

Dover Police, Wilmington Police and Delaware State Police are among the state’s law enforcement agencies currently not using body cameras that would be required to do so - if that bill passes.

Dover City Council debated adding funding for body cameras to its 2021 budget last week, but ultimately left it out.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member withReport for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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