How will DeKalb’s police body cameras affect you?

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How will DeKalb’s police body cameras affect you?

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Bob Andres
More than a year after body cameras became the widely embraced answer to the rupture in police-community relations, DeKalb has announced a major purchase. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Chances are the next time you’re pulled over by a cop in DeKalb County, a camera could be recording the officer’s behavior. And yours.

Officials say a major purchase is underway for police body cameras. So the next time you’re pulled over, watch what you say.

The increasing presence of these cameras raises all kinds of questions about public access to these videos.

Will your DUI video go viral?

The DeKalb County Police Department currently has no police body cameras. But DeKalb officials recently approved a $740,000 purchase of 600 police body cameras, expected to be in operation this fall.

Officials are promising more transparency on the part of law enforcement, and greater trust between cops and the community.

Over the past year, the urgency for body cameras has grown amid a national parade of tragedies between police and the public: ambush killings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge; controversial police-related deaths in Minneapolis and Milwaukee; riot squads squaring off with angry protesters.

At its best, body camera video can offer a clear picture of a disputed incident.

“Now, officers are so often second-guessed,” said Maj. Stephen Fore of the DeKalb County Police Department. “There’s more need for transparency with the public, to show that an officer is coming out here doing their best.”

Will body cameras usher in a new era of policing in metro Atlanta?

“I’m optimistic. We’re at a low point with some communities having faith in law enforcement,” said Frank Rotondo, executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.

“I think it will only help.”

But controversy exists. While encouraged by the potential of body cameras, Francys Johnson, the NAACP Georgia chapter president, said the devices hardly guarantee a level playing field between police and the public, or justice.

Police have been using dashboard cameras in patrol cars for years now. “The use of cameras has not prevented the crisis we are in now,” Johnson said.

He added, “If we don’t fix community-based policing and improve the relationship between police and the community, then all these body cameras will be doing is recording the deaths of more citizens at the hands of police.”

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