On Saturday, February 17, the Gold Assembly passed a bill that mandates that all police officers wear body cameras.
Delegates from Valle Lobo proposed the bill, which passed through voice and stand-up votes. An official tally was not available.
“I think this bill would really lower police brutality because [police] would know that they were being documented,” said Michael Bule, a Gold Assembly member from the SDSC/South Bay delegation who spoke in favor of the bill.
Bule pointed to statistics indicating that African Americans are more likely to be killed by police and that some of the victims are mentally ill. He said he was in favor of the bill because the footage collected by the body cameras would provide evidence in cases where unjustified use of force is suspected.
Excessive use of force by police has become a prominent issue in the United States over the past few years. According to Washington Post, 963 people in America were killed by police in 2016 alone.
Gold Assembly member Jane Hood from the Berkeley delegation spoke against this bill. Hood said she thinks police reform is necessary in order to reduce the use of excessive force but called the bill “really complicated” and said it deserved fair debate.
Hood also brought up specific concerns about the amount of video that would have to be stored under this bill as well as issues of privacy, calling the bill “more a threat to civil liberties than a protection of them.”
Legislative analyst Gwen Goldman from East Valley Family YMCA spoke about the fiscal effects of the bill. She pointed to a study by the Journal of Quantitative Criminology that found that 60% fewer police officers used force when they wore body cameras. She also said that the bill would lessen the amount of money spent on use-of-force cases by $29,000. However, the body cameras themselves would cost more than $19 million.
When told that the body camera bill would cost $19 million, Stephanie Hwang of the Verdugo Hills delegation, who is not in the Gold Assembly, said she doesn’t think the measure is fiscally responsible. “I think there are other methods to stop police brutality because even with the body cameras it still happens.” Hwang said she thinks that police brutality is a serious issue, but she believes there are more effective ways to solve it.
Isabella Manfreda of the Stuart C. Gildred Delegation, who is also not a Gold Assembly member, disagrees. “There needs to be stricter punishment for police who aren’t [justly using force],” she said. “In unnecessary situations there needs to be regulation and more punishment because that’s just wrong. Police are here to help us, not to harm us.”