Saturday, February 7, 2015

Cleveland police begin wearing body cameras following damning DOJ report and high profile police shootings of unarmed Blacks Malissa Williams and Tim Russell with 137 bullets, and Tamir Rice, and the police killing of Tanisha Anderson

A police body camera that resembles a regular camera and is worn on an officer's button or zipper shirt, utility belt or uniform shirt pockets. Cleveland City Council has purchased 1,200  of this type of body camera for Cleveland police to sport.

A type  of police body camera known as a flex camera that resembles a flashlight and is worn by police as eye-wear, and can be attached to officers' hats, collars, and bodies, and can be mounted to the dash of a police cruiser. Cleveland City Council has purchased 300 of this type of body camera  for Cleveland police to sport.
By Kathy Wray Coleman, editor-in-chief, Cleveland Urban News.Com, and the Kathy Wray Coleman Online News, Ohio's most read digital Black newspaper and newspaper blog. Tel: (216) 659-0473.  Coleman is a community 
activist, educator and 21-year investigative journalist who trained at the Call and Post Newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio for 17 years. ( / (

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Cleveland police officers began wearing body cameras during their patrols of the city's largely Black east side on Wednesday following a string of arbitrary police killings of unarmed Black people in recent months and a U.S. Department of Justice report that found systemic problems in the majority White Cleveland Police Department. The remainder of the cameras will be in place and utilized by the remainder of police officers by June, city officials said yesterday.

At a total cost of roughly $2.4 million, the city purchased $1,500 body cameras for its police officers, 300 of them of which fit into the category of flex cameras, and the other 1,200 of which are general body cameras that have a resemblance to regular cameras.

City council passed the ordinance for the cameras last year and subsequently gave the contract to Taser International, an American distributor with its headquarters based in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The flex cameras are body cameras that resemble a flashlight. They are worn by police as eye-wear, and can also be attached to officers' hats, collars, and bodies, and can be mounted to the dash of a police cruiser. 

The general body cameras, on the other hand, are typically worn on an officer's button or zipper shirt, utility belt or uniform shirt pocket.

Cleveland Ward 2 Councilman Zack Reed
Ward 2 Councilman Zack Reed, an outspoken proponent of the cameras, told Cleveland Urban News.Com, Ohio's leader in Black digital news,  that the city will "now have a tool in place to ensure that we will see at least maybe not all things that are happening but at least a clearer picture." 

Tamir Rice
Last November police shot and killed unarmed 12-year-old Tamir Rice at a public park on the city's west side, and that same month killed 37-year-old Tanisha Anderson, who was slammed to the pavement by police at her home on the city's east side following a 9-1-1- call by a family member for mental health assistance. 

Tanisha Anderson
The DOJ report at issue, which was announced last December by U.S.  Attorney General Eric Holder, found a host of systemic problems by Cleveland police, from a pattern of excessive force, to cruel and usual punishment against the mentally ill. 

Unarmed Blacks Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell were gunned down by Cleveland police slinging 137 bullets . 

The tragic Russell-Williams shooting, which is the impetus for the body cameras,  followed a November 2012 car chase that began in downtown Cleveland and ended in a middle school parking lot in neighboring East Cleveland.

Local protests over the police killings of Rice, Anderson, Russell, Williams and an entree of others have been ongoing. And community activists and faith-based and other community organizations are calling for specifics, including more diversity in the police ranks and a civilian police review board, regarding an upcoming consent decree between the city and the federal government in response to the disturbing DOJ findings. 

New policies adopted by city council around the cameras require in part that the cameras that record audio and visual activities, record traffic stops, car chases and other pursuits, and domestic disturbances, use-of-deadly force incidents, and encounters with victims, witnesses or suspects. 

The policies also require that officers tell people if the cameras, which will generate footage that is a public record under state law, are on and operating, and they must give people the alternative to object.

Deactivation of the cameras, including a civilian request not to be recorded or photographed, mandates supervisory approval, the policy says. 

Instances in which the cameras are not required include undisturbed lunch breaks and circumstances were interaction with civilians and the public do not pose a threat. 

Community activists and some city council persons want the cameras on and operating at all possible times, particularly when police come into the Black community. 

Whether the city policies are adequate enough to protect the welfare of the community to the extent practicable and what impact they will have on the provisions of the police union contract or collective bargaining agreement remains to be seen.

City officials said that police officers will  face discipline if they fail to turn on the cameras when required.

Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association
President Steve Loomis
The Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association, the union for police patrolmen, prefers dash cams over the body cameras, union president Steve Loomis told Cleveland Urban News.Com during a recent community forum on the cameras at the Harvard Community Services Center.

"They will leave a lot of unanswered questions," said Loomis relative to the body cams. "And they will create more controversy than solve problems."  ( / (