Kenney budget will ask for 800 more body cameras for Philly police

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is asking City Council to fund 800 more body cameras for the city's police force. (NewsWorks file photo)

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is asking City Council to fund 800 more body cameras for the city's police force. (NewsWorks file photo)

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is planning to ask city lawmakers for funding to equip 800 more police officers with body-worn cameras.

It’s a move of a piece with the police department’s larger goal of outfitting all 6,500 officers with cameras by 2019.

In the city’s 22nd District in North Philly, about two dozen officers have been experimenting with body cameras, and city leaders are happy with the results.

Police Commissioner Richard Ross speaking on WHYY’s Radio Times said cameras will help change how officers interact with the public.

“It works the other way as well, where people, their temperature as I understand it from the officers in the 22nd district, it’s lowered as well. Because you know now you’re on camera,” Ross said.

The new cameras are expected to carry about a $1 million price tag, which the mayor hopes to fund with a mix of both city and grant money.

Kelvyn Anderson, who heads the Police Advisory Commission, said he hopes the initiative will help the city’s police department, which is under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Justice, make gains toward better accountability.

“To the extent that that reduces unnecessary confrontations between folks, that’s a good thing,” Anderson said.

Not everyone is cheering, though. Some public defenders worry that body-worn cameras will be turned on and off in ways that will benefit an officer’s telling of events — in particular, that the officers will flip the cameras off during instances of potential police misconduct.

Officers walking beats are told to keep the cameras rolling unless entering a private residence.

In New York, the police department is expanding an officer body camera pilot program, expecting to outfit 1,000 additional officers with cameras by the summer.

There, the Wall Street Journal reports, one big issue is video storage, since a pilot program revealed that department computers lack the capacity to hold thousands of hours of footage.

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