DC police’s body-worn camera program faces criticism

Five years after the District launched its body-worn camera program for the Police Department, the D.C. Council is reviewing how well it is working. And overwhelmingly, those testifying said that it isn’t.

Dozens of residents and organization representatives testified to the council’s Judiciary and Public Safety Chair Charles Allen, a Democrat who represents Ward 6, about their frustrations with how D.C. runs its police body-camera program.

“After five years, it’s appropriate to take a step back and look at what parts have worked well and which parts haven’t worked well, and help guide where we go from here,” Allen said.

D.C. had 3,100 officers wearing body cameras as part of their uniform in December 2018.

The committee is asking the public for comment through Nov. 4 as it reviews D.C. police reports. It is also looking into body-camera program developments in other jurisdictions, and it is reviewing comments to make any changes to current law.

Among the issues raised in the public roundtable were officers forgetting to turn on their cameras and allegedly deleting footage. One of the more common sentiments was on the lack of quick and respectful access to footage for victims’ families.

“It is reflexively secretive. Instead of providing as much information as it can, it provides only the information it’s required to,” said Emily Gunston of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee.

D.C. police did not offer comment on the criticism raised in the hearing.

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