After Ferguson, Washington (predictably) overreacts, attempts to further federalize local police

Police Body Camera

Increasingly in this digital age, our public actions can be recorded, posted online, and shared with millions of viewers. “Viral videos” on YouTube make us laugh and sometimes stun and surprise us. And when it comes to law enforcement, these videos — recorded by either third parties or through the use of personal body cameras — can hold them accountable when the desire to exert too much force or manipulate the law becomes too great.

President Obama called for $283 million in federal funding to provide police body cameras and training to police in communities where the relationship between law enforcement and the general public is strained. And while the push to provide more transparency and accountability for law enforcement is ultimately a good thing, conservatives should be wary of further federalizing local law enforcement.

From the NBC account:

President Barack Obama on Monday proposed new funding meant to help improve relations between police departments and minority communities, saying there is a “simmering distrust” between the two groups that extends well beyond the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

The White House has asked for $263 million in funding for police body cameras and training in the wake of the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The program, which would need congressional approval, would offer a total of $75 million over three years to match state funding for the cameras by 50 percent, helping to pay for more than 50,000 of the devices.

United Liberty called for police to use body cameras back in August in a post by Stephen Littau.

A major concern about federalization of police funding is that so many resources are provided by the Department of Defense to local law enforcement agencies that are used in combat zones and completely inappropriate for domestic utilization. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published a report titled “War Comes Home” in June of this year that further highlights these concerns. UL covered it then and also covered a Washington Post report about police militarization around the same time.

Money t hat passes through Washington gets siphoned off to special projects and then returned to localities. But keeping those funds local to begin with would mean more money could go directly to local law enforcement agencies.

Plus, there’s the issue of federalism. The powers not expressly delegated to Congress should be reserved to the states, under the 10th Amendment. Concentrating more and more power in Washington takes power away from the most direct form of representation we have — local government.

Are there methods of holding law enforcement accountable when something goes wrong? Certainly. But those methods could just as easily come from county courthouses and state capitols than from Washington. And it would be better if they did.


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