Daytona chief formally seeks body-cam funds
BY PENNY DICKERSON
The Daytona Beach Police Department has applied for grant funding that would allow it to purchase more body cameras for local law enforcement.
Earlier this year, 112 Daytona police officers were wearing the body-cams. Police Chief Michael Chitwood is seeking an additional 80 to ensure that his entire force is armed with the technology, which costs about $900 each, including storage and maintenance.
Last month, Chitwood formally submitted to the City of Daytona a “local submission and acceptance of a grant application” in an effort to apply for an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) in the amount of $57,911 through the 2015 body-worn camera pilot program. The grant will be met with a cash match in the amount of $57,912.
The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) Program is the cornerstone of the federal justice assistance program. Byrne JAG supports the federal government’s crucial role in spurring innovation, as well as testing and replicating evidence-based practices nationwide.
Before the local police department can move forward, there is a 30-day public comment/governing body review period, per the requirements of the grant, which will began on Aug. 5 and ends on Sept. 16. Public comments must be addressed in writing and submitted to the police department’s grant administrator.
A national voice
In 2014, The U.S. Department of Justice and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) sponsored a Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and published a governing document titled, “Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program: recommendations and lessons learned.”
Chitwood’s explanation of how body-worn cameras have changed the handling of domestic violence cases is included:
“Oftentimes we know that the suspect is repeatedly abusing the victim, but either the victim refuses to press charges, or there is simply not enough evidence to go to trial,” Chitwood said.
“With the victim’s consent, Daytona Beach officers can now use body-worn cameras to videotape victim statements. The footage shows first-hand the victim’s injuries, demeanor, and immediate reaction,” he added.
Chitwood further noted that in some cases, officers capture the assault itself on video if they arrive on the scene while the incident is still ongoing.
“This means that we can have enough evidence to move forward with the case, even if the victim ultimately declines to prosecute.”
Obama’s pilot program
As part of President Obama’s commitment to expand funding and training to law enforcement agencies through community policing initiatives, the Department of Justice through its Office of Justice Programs launched in May a $20 million Body-Worn Camera (BWC) Pilot Partnership Program to respond to the immediate needs of local and tribal law enforcement organizations.
The investment includes a $19 million competitive BWC pilot partnership program for the actual purchase of BWCs, training and other technical assistance as well as $1 million for the Bureau of Justice Statistics to develop evaluation and survey tools to study best practices regarding the evidentiary impacts of body-worn cameras.
According the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), body cameras are one law enforcement strategy aimed at improving public safety, reducing crime and improving public trust between police and the citizens they serve. DOJ provides numerous resources to assist state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies in developing and enhancing their body-cam program.
Crime without cameras
Law enforcement’s use of the BWC emerged as a national conversation following the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., by police officer Darren Wilson. While citizen journalists captured footage on the scene, evidence as videotaped via a camera on the body of Wilson would have helped decipher facts from what has since become urban legend.
“Some police departments are doing themselves a disservice by not using body-worn camera,” stated Roy L. Austin, deputy assistant attorney general, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice. “Everyone around you is going to have a camera, and so everyone else is going to be able to tell the story better than you if you don’t have these cameras.”
Austin added that when the Civil Rights Division is looking at a police department, every piece of information that shows the department is engaged in constitutional policing is important. So, of course, body cameras can help.
As previously reported by the Daytona Times, members of the Daytona Beach Police Department responded to a domestic dispute in 2013. When officers kicked down the door, 32-year-old Jermaine Green was found holding a knife at his girlfriend’s throat.
After instructing Green to release her, Green instead raised the knife in a motion that suggested to officers he was going to stab Katrina Johnson. The two officers shot Green several times, saving Johnson.
The officers did not attempt to move Green while they waited for paramedics to arrive. They didn’t know if there was a weapon underneath his body.
A video recording with audio of the incident showed what really happened that morning, thanks to body cameras that Daytona Beach police officers wear. That video was uploaded to YouTube and viewed worldwide more than 100,000 times.
“The video shows exactly what happened,” said DBPD spokesperson Jimmie Flynt. “He was about to stab her and officers had to take appropriate action to prevent death or serious bodily injury. There were people complaining … once they saw the video, there was no question.”