House budget creates new grants for body cameras

Members of the House voted 109-2 to create a new $5 million grant program for local police departments that want to equip officers with body worn cameras.

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Police body camera
Mark Binker
RALEIGH, N.C. — The use of body cameras to record police interaction with citizens can be a controversial topic. But Thursday night, with little discussion, members of the state House created a $5 million grant program for local police departments to buy the equipment.

"It brings certainty to these tragic cases, but it also creates a base to create real-life training for our newer officers," said Rep. Charles Jeter, R-Mecklenburg, one of the primary sponsors of the amendment.

The amendment sets aside $2.5 million for each of the next two years for the grant program. Local departments would have the option of applying for the grants or could go without the equipment. Those applying would have to provide $2 of local funding for every $1 of state grant received.

"This is as much about protecting police officers as it is about about protecting citizens," Jeter said.

Video from cameras has both vindicated officers and unveiled injustices, he said.

Body cameras typically cost between $800 and $1,200, according to estimates from the legislature's fiscal staff. However, there are more costs associated with storing the images and sounds recorded by the cameras, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars for larger departments.

Members of the state House were debating their budget proposal late on Thursday night. The amendment offered by Jeter and Rep. Ed Hanes, D-Forsyth, passed 109-2 with no member speaking against it. It's unclear if the Senate intends to include a similar measure in its budget proposal, which is expected to begin rolling out as early as next week.

"Advances in technology allow us to monitor and learn from these interactions in previously unimaginable ways," Hanes said.

If the program makes it into the final version of the budget that is a compromise between the two chambers, local departments could be able to start applying late this year.


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