SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A local group organizing “45 Days of Action” in Shreveport is backing a petition for the Shreveport Police Department to purchase and use more police body cameras. This marks day 3 on their 45 days of protests until July 15.
Organizer, Omari Ho-Sang says the Change.org petition was started days ago by Hayley Owens and it originally called for 7,500 signatures. Since 45 Days of Action backed the petition, more than 5,000 signatures came through Tuesday night and more than 8,500 had signed as of Wednesday morning. The goal has since been increased to 10,000 signatures.
Ho-Sang says 45 Days of Action – Shreveport is backing the petition particularly because of questions surrounding the April 20, 2020 death of Tommie McGlothen while in police custody.
“I think in light of what happened with McGlothen, now is the time to unapologetically call for body cams. That’s how you build that trust with police so we do this in hopes of Mayor Perkins paying attention because we need institutional change to get justice.”
Last Thursday, Shreveport Police Chief Ben Raymond explained the reason for a lack of body cameras comes from being underfunded for the purchase of equipment.
“I continue to support the purchase of body cameras for all of our uniformed police officers along with policies directing their use while on duty,” Chief Raymond said. “And I hope to work with council to identify funding for that need.”
Currently, the department only has 90 functioning body cameras that are worn by canine officers, warrants units, downtown officers, and community liaison officers (CLOs). The department’s 5-year plan calls for buying 400 body cameras for all officers, and they’ll need $2.4 million in funding. City council members echoed the support in Thursday’s meeting.
SPD Public Information Officer Angie Willhite says the appeal for body cameras has been an unfunded request for a long time. The department has been offered grants in the past, but not enough to fund the purchase of the equipment.
The department would also have to pay for storage space for the 4K HD videos by upgrading their server programs to hold footage from all officers. The city council faces a $25 million budget shortfall because of COVID-19, which could mean the department’s request will be pushed back even further.
“There’s not an officer on this force who doesn’t want police cameras,” said Willhite. “It protects the public and also protects our officers as well from any false claims or just making sure they have their reports right.”
Even if all officers had body cameras, Wilhite pointed out that they are subject to technical failures and issues. She says at certain points during an incident, an officer could be 20 or 30 feet away from a subject or location and the signal can be lost. Cameras may have limited range, which can affect audio.
“So it can be an officer has interviewed different folks for a case and gets back to want to listen to their statements to makes sure he or she can write up their reports correctly, and the audio went out.”