Memphis Police Body Cams Suspended Indefinitely

Rollout for roughly 2,000 cameras is suspended pending further review of policies related to the cameras.

by David Royer, The Commercial Appeal / January 20, 2016
Police departments around the country have been adopting body cameras over the last few years. Now school district administrators are creating policies to use them on campus. David Kidd

(TNS) — Memphis police officers won't be receiving long-awaited body cameras next week as planned and there is no timeline for when they will be in use, Mayor Jim Strickland said Friday.

Rollout for roughly 2,000 cameras is indefinitely suspended pending further review of policies related to the cameras.

"In an effort to do something good for our city, the process was rushed, and the full implementation of body cameras was not carefully thought out," Strickland said in a statement. "The bottom line is this: I would rather do this right than fast."

Strickland said the district attorney's office needs updated technology to collect thousands of hours of video each day, and the city needs manpower and structure to deal with an influx of open records requests related to the videos.

The body cameras, along with camera systems for squad cars, were supposed to be in use last October, but Shelby County Dist. Atty. Amy Weirich's office requested the rollout be delayed while her staff received training on how to handle the videos, specifically their storage, usage and dissemination. Weirich said at the time, she was targeting Jan. 1 as the new date for the camera system implementation.

Last week, however, city officials said they didn't have a schedule for when the camera systems would be operational.

Friday's decision garnered criticism from some advocates of law enforcement review.

"If we hadn't been discussing this since 2014, I think I'd be more sympathetic," said John Marek, an attorney, member of the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board and a recent candidate for City Council.

Brad Watkins, executive director of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, said the delay made last year's push for police body cameras look like "election-year pandering."

"I don't see how the people could have any confidence in this process when they are continually told one thing and continually the opposite is happening," he said.

Strickland said he will meet with all of the parties involved next week to determine how to proceed.

Jacinthia Jones, Ryan Poe, Katie Fretland and Daniel Connolly of The Commercial Appeal contributed.

©2016 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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