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Ferguson police trial body cameras following mass protests

Ferguson police trial body cameras following mass protests


Police chief says officers recorded taunting protesters at a demonstration on Saturday

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Police in Ferugson, Missouri have begun wearing on-body cameras, following the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown last month. Police Chief Tom Jackson tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his department received about 50 body cameras last week from two companies, Safety Visions and Digital Ally. Some officers wore them to a protest on Saturday, though Jackson says the department is "still playing with them."

Supporters of on-body cameras say they could provide authorities with a clear and unfiltered record of police interactions with civilians. Brown's death, at the hands of Ferguson officer Darren Wilson, and the department's heavy-handed response to protesters have stoked a national debate over police aggression and brutality. Other police departments in the St. Louis area have adopted wearable cameras following Brown's killing, with advocates pushing for legislation that would make the devices mandatory.

"They are really enjoying them."

The cameras deployed at Saturday's protest lost battery power by the end of the day, but Jackson tells the Post-Dispatch that they would remain powered through a normal shift. According to the police chief, the cameras captured images and video of protesters taunting the police, adding that feedback within the department has so far been positive.

"They are really enjoying them," Jackson said. “They are trying to get used to using them."

This week's report comes as other police departments look to adopt similar measures. Police in South Carolina recently began testing wearable cameras, while officers in Rialto, California have seen use of police force decline by 60 percent within the first year of its body camera program. Other countries have adopted the cameras, as well, with similar programs being launched in France and the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.