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State lawmakers introduce bill making body cameras required for police

Photo courtesy: Delaware State Police

A group of state lawmakers introduced a bill requiring the use of body cameras statewide.


The legislation is based on the Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force’s recommendations released last week.


State Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker’s (D-Wilmington) measure would require police officers to wear body cameras on duty, and empower the Council on Police Training to develop standards and regulations for the use of body cameras statewide.


Dorsey Walker says she wants to give the Council most of the regulating power so the rules don’t come from on high in Leg Hall


“I think it’s imperative that we give the police working with the community the opportunity to create the policy and the reason why I say that is, you have a lot more buy in if you help put something in place,” she says.


The council will be required to hold two public hearings during the drafting process, and the bill adds four new members to the council - the chairs of the House and Senate safety committees and two members of the public nominated by the governor.


State Attorney General Kathy Jennings says while many police departments still without body cameras are beginning to adopt them voluntarily, it’s important the state lays down guidelines.


“Having the equipment is great, having the storage capability for all police agencies is equally great — but what is also critically important in this bill is that there will be a statewide, uniform policy that every police officer must follow as a minimum across all agencies,” Jennings says.


Jennings says this bill will also help with guiding the release of body camera footage. She says she expects the Council on Police Training to incorporate rules on the release of footage into their standards for police departments.


Gov. John Carney is also asking for around $3.5 million in funding this year for body cameras and data storage.


Jennings is confident the stars have aligned for a bill like this, and sees it passing smoothly through the legislature. She adds the Police Chief’s Council have also voiced their support for such a bill.


The regulations are expected to be finished by January and will, at the very least, cover body camera use, activation, the storage of data and the sharing of footage.


Dorsey Walker says the next item her caucus plans to tackle is updating the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights.


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


This story has been updated.

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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