Will Congress Approve Obama's Police Body Cameras Proposal? It Could Rankle The GOP
With police shootings squarely in the national spotlight in recent weeks, following harrowing incidents like the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson and John Crawford and Tamir Rice in Ohio, a lot of ideas have been flying around for reforms that might help deescalate encounters between citizens and officers. One major proposal: why not have the police wear body cameras to record footage of their interactions? Well, the President seems to think that's a pretty good idea — President Obama wants police body cameras, and has requested a package of $263 million from Congress to make it all happen. All in all, the money would be spread out over three years, and would fund the acquisition of 50,000 uniform-mounted cameras.
Of this, this practically begs the question — will the Congress play ball, and agree to the plan? It's a complicated question, since conservative orthodoxies about support for police forces can sometimes cut against the traditional skepticism of state power. And after the 2014 midterm elections, with the Republicans storming into control of the Senate In historic fashion, it's sure to be an even heavier lift than it would've been this time last year. While the money sounds big, it's actually a minuscule expenditure in relation to the federal budget. But notwithstanding, the suggestion that America's police officers need to have their interactions recorded for reasons of public safety could easily rankle some die-hard "law and order" Republicans.
If the program is fulfilled, however, it'll be a rare area in which the family of slain Ferguson teen Michael Brown can actually say their words were heeded. The Brown family called for body cameras to be worn by all police officers last week, in response to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon's preemptive declaration of a state of emergency ahead of the Darren Wilson grand jury announcement.
We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions. While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen. Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera. We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not an appropriate reaction. Let's not just make noise, let's make a difference.
So, for this funding proposal to make it through Congress, it'll first have to pass the Senate with a 50-vote majority, a Senate which after Jan. 3 will boast 53 Republican seats. Then, assuming it survives, it'll run into the even more entrenched House GOP, led by Speaker John Boehne, where it'll need to crack 218 votes. And seeing as the impetus for all this is as politically polarizing as it is — the death of Michael Brown, wrapped up with the Ferguson protests — it seems an obvious choice to be held up.
And this isn't even exclusively a Republican problem. There are conservative, largely southern Democrats to contend with as well — Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, so thoroughly criticized over his handling of the protests, is himself a Democrat, lest we forget. Basically, it's a little early to say whether this effort will pay off, but make no mistake, it would be a hugely positive step.
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