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IL Congressman Introduces Bill To Mandate Use Of Bodycams

By Stephen Gossett in News on Feb 22, 2017 8:09PM

Washington DC Metropolitan Police Officer Debra Domino wears one of the new 'body-worn cameras' that the city's officers will begin using during a press conference announcing the details of the program September 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) introduced a bill on Wednesday that would require states to mandate law enforcement agencies put in place a policy regarding the use of bodycams and dashcams. Failure to do so would restrict a state's access to federal funds, according to the proposed legislation. The bill, dubbed the "Laquan McDonald Camera Act of 2017,” looks to shore up police accountability and help restore trust in law enforcement personnel, Rush said.

Each state would be required to illustrate guidelines for how officers are to use bodycams and dashcams. Rush said such a measure would help dispel confusion about when and how they should be operated.

“What’s the point of having body-cams or dashboard cameras if a cop fails to turn them on or the volume is off,” Rush said in press release. “Having clear, enforceable policies protects both citizens and law enforcement officers when these incidents escalate.”

The bill is named for seventeen-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times and killed by Chicago police. Police involved in the shooting testified that McDonald was lunging toward officers, but video from a police-vehicle dashcam showed McDonald walking away from police when they opened fire. Release of the footage prompted calls for the expanded use of body cameras within the Chicago Police Department. The department announced late last year that all Chicago police officers will wear bodycams by the end of 2017.

“This legislation seeks to restore some of the public’s trust in law enforcement at time when trust is at an all-time low due. There has been a wave of questionable police shootings that resulted in the deaths of unarmed citizens—or people who appeared to be of no threat at the time of the encounter,” said Rush. “Cases, such as Laquan McDonald, Mike Brown, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are brutal illustrations on why we need a clear documentation of facts when citizen-encounters with police turn deadly." The shooting death of McDonald also sparked a months-long investigation of CPD by the Justice Department—a probe that found a pattern of constitutional abuses.