State rep wants body cameras on officers across the state

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - The City of Charleston approved a grant to put body cameras on police officers. Now a state representative wants to enforce a state law for all active duty law enforcement.

Rep. Wendell Gilliard says the idea to have law enforcement officers wear body cameras state-wide came from California where he says many cities are having a lot of success.

"Like in Rialto, California - since they require all of the officers to wear body cameras, the complaints have dropped 88 percent. The use of force has dropped by 60 percent. Now those are very impressive statistics," he said.

Gilliard says the idea will not only help prevent officer-involved incidents, but also increase the confident the public has in law enforcement.

"Cameras don't lie and we have to use modern day technology as to help prevent crimes and resolve crimes," he said.

Gilliard says body cameras would have resolved the questions around the shootings like the one at the Bridgeview Apartments that claimed the life of Denzel Curnell.

A surveillance camera on the property was operating, but did not capture the incident with Curnell because the footage cut out for five minutes. The video, released by state police, shows a man - presumably Curnell - being approached by a police officer when it cuts out. The video comes back when officers are arriving on scene.

"If we had a clear view of a camera that was properly there, properly operating, it would be without question of the doubt we would have clear and present judgment," he said. "It wouldn't be no rumors of you say, I say or she say. We don't need that when it comes to these type of issues."

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at least 60 percent of local police departments use dashboard cameras. There is no clear data on how many use wearable body cameras, however.

As Charleston works to add body cameras to its tools for officers, some officers in Summerville are already using them. Other departments in Arizona, California, Colorado, and New Mexico are using them. Major metropolitan areas - Washington, DC, New York City, New Orleans, and Los Angeles - are rolling out body cameras, too.

Gilliard says the cameras cost between $600 and $1,000 per officer. It's a cost we worth the price, he said.

"You can't put a cost on a life. You can't put a cost on trust. And that's what we need in this country as it pertains to our citizens and our law enforcement," Gilliard said.

He says if the bill passes, he hopes to implement it by April 2015.