Rep. Greg Stanton has introduced a bill to require the use of body-worn cameras for law enforcement officers as a condition of eligibility for COPS grants. The COPS Accountability Act of 2020, H.R. 7150, would require state, local and tribal government agencies applying for COPS grants to show they have plans in place to put a body camera on every officer who conducts searches and makes arrests.

“As we rethink 21st century policing, we have to make changes that can increase transparency and accountability to make everyone safer,” said Stanton. “I believe that every police officer on patrol ought to be wearing a body camera. And if departments want federal funds to expand their forces, they should have to prove first that—at a minimum—they’re willing to make that policy a priority.”

The federal Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, Grant program was created in 1994 to support hiring or re-hiring community policing officers; procuring law enforcement equipment, technology, or support systems; and establishing school-based partnerships between local law enforcement agencies and local school systems. State, local and tribal governments must identify crimes and disorder issues within their jurisdictions that they plan to address with the funds.

Just this June, nine departments in Arizona received a total of $4.8 million through the FY 2020 COPS hiring program grant cycle. The grants added 36 new officers across those nine departments. Since 2012, departments throughout the state have received more than $17.4 million in COPS grants to hire a total of 132 new officers.

Stanton’s bill would require departments applying for funds to show plans for a body camera policy in the first year of the grant and plans to increase body camera coverage by 25% and 50% in the following fiscal years. Department compliance would be reported by the Attorney General to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. 

At last month’s House Judiciary Committee Oversight Hearing on Policing Practices and Law Enforcement Accountability, Stanton asked panelists about the effectiveness of body-worn cameras on keeping officers and the public safe. In his comments, he cited a 2014 study by Arizona State University that found officers wearing body cameras were more aware of their actions and sensitive to possible scrutiny of the footage by their superiors. Recent research continues to show positive trends in the effects of officers wearing body cameras. [Source]