Arizona Capitol

Arizona Bills Would Mandate Police Body Cameras, External Reviews of Shootings

A Democratic state representative is proposing mandatory body cameras on every police officer in the state, plus external reviews of any police shootings.

Representative Reginald Bolding, who represents parts of Phoenix, announced the legislation yesterday in response to constituent concerns about police shootings in Arizona and elsewhere.

"After having conversations in the community . . . there's been a call for public trust, transparency, and accountability on behalf of the law enforcement agencies," Bolding tells New Times.

See also: -Cop's Killing of Unarmed Black Man Catapults Phoenix Into New Civil Rights Movement

Of course, there have been several controversial police shootings in just the last year in Phoenix, like the shooting of Rumain Brisbon, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by a police officer at a Phoenix apartment complex.

"These bills are designed to increase transparency and build more trust within the community," Bolding says in a statement. "The practice of wearing body cameras and requiring external reviews of officer-involved shootings directly speaks to the safety and accountability needs of both community members and law enforcement officers."

One of the bills, House Bill 2511, would require every state and local cop to have a body camera, and have that camera rolling while carrying out duties "that are likely to result in a criminal investigation or arrest."

The use of body cameras at some local police agencies has been becoming more common, and recently, Arizona State University did a study on the use of cameras on police officers in Mesa.

They took two groups of 50 officers -- trying to make the groups as even as possible, demographically -- and outfitted one group with body cameras. Through eight months, they found that the officers without body cameras were three times more likely to have complaints lodged against them than officers with body cameras.The officers with the cameras also had 75 percent fewer use-of-force complaints.

According to a Justice Department study, however, Mesa police found that the cameras could undermine their efforts to gather information, with some people reluctant to give information to officers knowing they're being taped.

That same study also cites a conversation with Surprise Police Chief Michael Frazier among law-enforcement officials saying the use of body cameras has discouraged people from filing unfounded complaints against officers:

"Recently we received an allegation that an officer engaged in racial profiling during a traffic stop. The officer was wearing his body-worn camera, and the footage showed that the allegation was completely unfounded," Frazier said. "After reviewing the tape, the complainants admitted that they have never been treated unfavorably by any officers in my department." As several police officials noted, preventing unfounded complaints can save departments the significant amounts of time and money spent on lengthy investigations and lawsuits.
Bolding tells us that a couple of the police unions he's talked to have been supportive of the spirit of the body-camera bill.

Bolding's other police-related bill, HB 2512, would require that any police killing be investigated by another agency, instead of an internal investigation.

Although Bolding told us he's seen quite a bit of support of the bills from fellow lawmakers, there is going to be a Republican proposal in the Senate that would limit the use of body cameras. KTAR reported earlier this month, "Republican State Sen. John Kavanagh is drafting a bill limiting police body camera recording to criminal cases and use-of-force situations 'so that only necessary interactions and conversations are recorded and saved.'"

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley