Let Body Cams Build Bridges of Trust for Law Enforcement

Target: Jeanne Shaheen, Chair of U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

Goal: Support more robust use of body cams for police and other law enforcement.

Police in Los Angeles responded to a domestic violence call and reportedly fatally shot the alleged victim: a Black woman. Niani Finlayson called for help after her boyfriend had allegedly threatened and assaulted her. Sounds of screaming and a struggle could apparently be heard on the emergency call. When police arrived, Finlayson, her nine-year-old daughter, and the suspect were inside. The encounter ended with Finlayson sustaining multiple gunshot wounds that ultimately killed her. The officer involved in the shooting (who had also been under investigation in a similar fatal incident) claims that Finlayson (the apparent victim) was brandishing a knife at her boyfriend, which prompted the fired shots. The woman’s daughter disputes that claim.

But until and unless body camera footage is released, the circumstances will remain unclear. Finlayson’s family has accused the officer of excessive force against a woman who was possibly defending herself against an aggressor. The department, just as it did during the aforementioned prior shooting reportedly involving the officer, has so far taken no action…including the release of the footage.

While cameras have proven instrumental in many high-profile police cases, the requirement for body cams on police officers still remains a patchwork of state-by-state dictates. And even when cameras are required, often times—just like in this case—a significant delay exists before the footage is released. These time lapses create distrust once the information does become public knowledge.

Sign the petition below to call for a more uniform and nationwide standard for police body cams.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Senator Shaheen,

Body-worn cameras could be an instrumental tool in police reform. These resources, when required and implemented properly, can shed needed light on high-intensity situations where eyewitness recollections may be tainted. They can provide concrete evidence of wrongdoing, or clear accused officers of wrongdoing. So why are laws and funding for these crucial tools so vague, sporadic, and lackadaisical?

A case currently unfolding in California highlights the usefulness of body cams. An alleged victim of domestic violence was apparently shot and killed by police when they arrived at the residence. Conflicting accounts have made this tragedy even more harrowing for a grieving family seeking answers. The department involved in this case has delayed releasing footage, which further compounds the confusion and the anger.

Please support funding and federal legislation regarding law enforcement body cams. Make this issue a top priority before another life is lost amidst a cloud of uncertainty.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Ryan Johnson


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