In a speech this morning, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed strong support for police body cameras as a path forward for policing reform. "We should make sure that every police department in the country has police cameras to record interactions," Clinton said. "That will improve transparency and accountability and help good people on both sides of the lens." Clinton also expressed support for President Obama's police training task force and other justice reform efforts, which have funded 50,000 body cameras to be distributed nationally
The news came as part of the keynote address at the David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum in New York, which touched on larger issues of police violence and criminal justice reform. "It is rare to see Democrats and Republicans agree on anything today," Clinton said, "but we're beginning to agree on this: we need to restore balance to our criminal justice system." Later in the speech, Clinton made the point even more forcefully: "We need to end the era of mass incarceration."
"We need to end the era of mass incarceration."
Police body cameras have become a common request in the wake of recent police killings, most notably Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, and Eric Harris. In each case, video evidence was crucial in revealing the unjustified nature of the killing, although all the videos were captured by bystanders rather than police themselves. Clinton mentioned each of these cases in the speech, as part of larger concerns over national tensions. "Not only as a mother and a grandmother but as a citizen and a human being, my heart breaks for these men and their families," Clinton said. "What we have seen in Baltimore should, and I believe does, tear at our soul."
This announcement comes after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray while in the custody of the Baltimore Police, which has resulted in days of protest and general unrest. The Baltimore Sun reports that more than 30 people people have been hospitalized in the wake of Monday's protests, along with 235 arrests and more than 150 vehicle and structural fires. A curfew has been declared and more than 2,000 soldiers, airmen, and state troopers have been called in from surrounding areas, but there has still been no official explanation for Gray's death.
Some police departments are already testing out body camera programs, including departments in New York and Los Angeles. Still, there have been significant concerns that cameras alone will not be enough to counter police violence, particularly if departments have the ability to delete footage in the event of a controversy. Still, today's speech suggests the cameras will be a live issue in Clinton's campaign for the presidency, which she launched earlier this month.