Friday, January 15, 2016

Police Body Camera Rollout Delayed

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2016 at 5:35 PM

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The rollout of body cameras for every Memphis Police officer has been pushed back indefinitely, a decision announced by Mayor Jim Strickland at a Friday afternoon press conference.

Back in September, Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong announced that 2,000 cameras would be deployed and operational by the end of 2015. He said 50 officers a day were being trained to use them.

But today, Strickland said his office felt it necessary to delay their deployment until the Shelby County District Attorney's Office can update their technology to deal with the data that will be coming from the cameras. He also said city government would need additional manpower to handle public records requests for camera footage.

"I'd rather do the right thing than do the fast thing," Strickland said.

Armstrong told those at the press conference today that the police department would also need more staff to screen and redact information from the videos.

"Someone has to sit down and view all of that video. It's labor-intensive, and information has to be redacted so citizens' private information doesn't go public," Armstrong said.

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich said her office wasn't given advance notice by Mayor A C Wharton's administration about his 2015 deadline for getting the cameras operational.

"No one in my office had been trained [on what to do with the footage] before the announcement was made [last September]," Weirich said.

She said the police camera footage was "evidence, not entertainment" and that the contents would need to be handled carefully.

Strickland said he does support body cameras and said he voted for them when he was a Memphis City Councilmember. But he implied the previous administration rushed the deployment of cameras.

"I can't speak to what happened before January 1st, but I think people were overly optimistic," Strickland said.

Strickland would not speculate on when the city would be ready to roll out cameras.

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