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U.S. awards $20 million for body cameras to 100 police departments

NEW YORK -- More than 100 U.S. police departments and law enforcement agencies will receive $20 million to help buy body cameras, the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday, Sept. 26, in a bid to improve trust between officers and the public.Dema...

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Police body cameras are seen on a mannequin at an exhibit booth by manufacturer Wolfcom at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. October 26, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

NEW YORK -- More than 100 U.S. police departments and law enforcement agencies will receive $20 million to help buy body cameras, the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday, Sept. 26, in a bid to improve trust between officers and the public.

Demand for body cameras has risen amid a series of shootings of black men, many of them unarmed, by police, and last year the Obama administration unveiled a $20 million grant program.

The Justice Department on Monday announced how that money would be allocated. Funding was awarded to 106 state, city and tribal law enforcement agencies for equipment, training and evaluation.

The agencies are in 32 states and Puerto Rico, the department said in a statement. A department spokesman did not immediately have a list of the agencies.

"Effective public safety requires more than arrests and prosecutions. It also requires winning - and keeping - the trust and confidence of the citizens we serve," U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in the statement.

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The grants would promote transparency and ensure accountability, Lynch added, although many state laws restrict the release of video recorded by police body cameras.

Eighteen states plus Washington, D.C., have laws governing public access to such footage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Five of those states treat body camera recordings as public record, but they also provide caveats allowing police to withhold, redact or obscure the video, the NCSL says.

Authorities in Charlotte, N.C., last week resisted several days of demands from demonstrators calling for the release of videos showing the fatal shooting of a black man, drawing national criticism and contributing to the protests.

On Saturday, the police department reversed course and released two videos taken at the scene. The footage, however, failed to settle the central question of whether the victim, Keith Scott, had been holding a gun at the time.

Little scientific research has been done on the value of police body cameras, according to a 2014 review done by an Arizona State University criminologist.

There have been virtually no studies on whether cameras increase citizen views of police legitimacy, the review said. And while in some cases cameras were followed by fewer citizen complaints against police, it was not clear if the decline was the result of improved officer behavior or some other cause, the review said.

Related Topics: CRIMEPOLICE
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