Local law enforcement may see federal funding for its body-worn and vehicle camera program as the U.S. House of Representatives approved an appropriations bill Wednesday.
The spending package contained $1.5 million to purchase 250 body cameras and 100 dash cameras for the Vancouver Police Department, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, said in a statement Thursday. Altogether, an investment of $120 million was directed to body camera programs nationwide.
The bill was approved by the Senate on Thursday night. It now awaits President Joe Biden’s signature.
Herrera Beutler, a senior member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, worked with the Vancouver Police Department to secure funds in the omnibus bill. The city of Vancouver allocated $3 million for the program in addition to the federal funding.
“Our community has asked for police cameras for a while now,” Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain said. “This makes the next steps in our process assured and easier.”
In a statement, Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said the funding is vital in furthering the police department’s goal to develop greater transparency between police and the community.
Public outcry after four Vancouver officer-involved shootings within a four-week period in 2019 prompted the demand for a police camera program. The scrutiny prompted the police department to partner with a third-party organization, the Police Executive Research Forum, to review the culture and policies surrounding officers’ use of force. The adoption of a camera program was included among the group’s 84 recommendations.
A pilot program during the month of December featured cameras the size of a smartphone that could be attached to an officer’s vest, wrist or belt. The camera would be triggered to turn on if an officer unholstered their gun and record in 15-second clips.
Select police vehicles were equipped with a camera facing forward through the windshield, as well as a camera directed toward the rear seat. The pilot project ended Dec. 29.