[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Waterland Blog, nor its staff:]

City Council Approves Police Body Camera Pilot Program

During the final meeting of the year (on December 3rd), the Des Moines City Council voted six to one to approve a 6-month pilot program for police body cameras. During this period the city’s police department will have two fully-operating body cameras out in the field, allowing the city to obtain real-world information on their usage. The plan is for the department to report back to the council in six months, at which point we will consider whether or not to make the program permanent and purchase the necessary equipment for all of our officers to be wearing them (along with discussing guidelines for use and things of that nature).

In my opinion this is a positive step forward that I’m hopeful will lead to a permanent change. We have an excellent police department and police chief – as evidenced by the fact that the entire department had just four citizen complaints last year, and just one so far this year – but I strongly support mandatory police body cameras for several reasons. For example, they increase transparency, and they improve public trust. They also protect both the public and officers against wrongful accusations.

The cost of the program is certainly something we will have to take into deep consideration as we move forward, but based on the information we have so far, the positives are far worth the costs (which, depending on the model we choose, would be somewhere between $40,000 and $90,000 for all of the cameras and necessary software, plus the potential cost of one additional employee to handle redactions).

If you have any opinions on this issue and the council’s consideration of police body cameras, you can send an e-mail to the full council at [email protected].

– Anthony Martinelli

Councilmember Anthony Martinelli is a member of the Public Safety / Emergency Management Committee which put forth this issue to the full council.

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