More than a year after body cameras became the widely embraced answer to the rupture in police-community relations, Atlanta is finally making a big purchase of them. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: Bob Andres
Photo: Bob Andres

How will Atlanta’s police body cameras affect you?

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

That may sound familiar, as Atlanta police officials had announced the purchase of police body cameras a year ago. That arrangement fell through after controversy over the awarding of a contact.

But now officials say a major, multimillionaire dollar purchase is underway. So the next time you’re pulled over, watch what you say. The prospect raises all kinds of questions about public access to these videos.

Will your DUI video go viral?

Officials are promising more transparency on the part of law enforcement, and greater trust between cops and the community. The body cameras “will strengthen trust among our officers and the communities they serve by providing transparency to officer interactions,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed this past week in announcing a purchase.

The Atlanta City Council recently approved a $5.6 million purchase of 1,200 cameras and video storage equipment.

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.

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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