Police Body Cameras Should Be Required, Supporters Tell Missouri Senate Committee
Body cameras could be required for all Missouri law enforcement officers under a newly proposed Senate bill.
Senate Bill 21, sponsored by Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, also proposes that the state’s attorney general appoint a special prosecutor in cases where police use deadly force. It would also prohibit officers from “hog tying” and verbally abusing protesters and require the governor to contract with a human rights organization to monitor activities if a state of emergency is declared.
On Wednesday, the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety committee heard testimony from Chappelle-Nadal and others for about an hour.
“I don’t want an unarmed person to be judged by one person who is the judge, jury and executioner,” Chappelle-Nadal said. “If this happens again, what I’m scared of and what you (the committee) should be scared of, too, not only did the world look at the state of Missouri and look at St. Louis, but if this happens again and Missouri, St. Louis is situated the way it is, it’s going to be a further embarrassment.”
Chappelle-Nadal wants to bring the state’s deadly force statutes in line with a decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court, which limited the use of deadly force in a 1985 Tennessee case. The proposed bill states an officer can use deadly force “only when the officer reasonably believes the suspect poses a clear danger to the officer or any other person.”
Chappelle-Nadal said the bill would also help to restore confidence in legislators and law enforcement.
“I want them to have confidence in what we do as legislators every single day,” Chapelle-Nadal said. “What I have to hear every day is the system fails, the system fails, the system fails … I want to show my constituents the system does not fail.”
Citizen body cameras
David Whitt, a resident of the Canfield Green apartments, testified Wednesday that he and others have been outfitting residents with body cameras themselves. Whitt, wearing a shirt that said “We Copwatch,” said his group raised $2,000 in one month through crowd-funding to help purchase more than 200 body cameras that cost about $35 apiece. Whitt said the cameras help hold the local law enforcement accountable.
“We have to start somewhere,” Whitt said. “It’s not a quick fix … the community where I come from, we lost total trust in the police department.”
Whitt said they are also purchasing more cameras and will distribute them this summer. Residents have to go through an hour of training before they can use the cameras.
Phyllis Daugherty of St. Louis County and the ACLU of Missouri also spoke in support of the bill. No one spoke in opposition. The bill will still have to be voted on by the Senate committee before it goes to the Senate.
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