The U.S. Justice Department announced in a press release Monday that it has awarded $19.3 million in grants to 73 law enforcement and tribal agencies around the country for body cameras. The requests for grants still far exceeded expectations and funds available, the Associated Press reports.
The grants will help purchase 21,000 body cameras for agencies in 32 states and the District of Columbia. According to the DOJ’s fact sheet, 285 law enforcement agencies had sought funding for the cameras, which officers wear to record interactions on the job.
The DOJ said it had expected to award only 50 grants and added another $2.5 million to meet the increased demand when requests soared. An additional $3.9 million has been allocated for training, technical assistance, and a study to analyze the effectiveness of the program.
“This vital program is designed to assist local jurisdictions that are interested in exploring and expanding the use of body-worn cameras in order to enhance transparency, accountability and credibility,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a prepared statement. “The impact of body-worn cameras touches on a range of outcomes that build upon efforts to mend the fabric of trust, respect and common purpose that all communities need to thrive.”
The interest in body cameras has increased recently with intense national focus on deaths of unarmed citizens during encounters with police officers.
The largest awards of $1 million each in the Body-Worn Camera Pilot Partnership Program went to Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Miami-Dade County, Florida; Chicago; Detroit; and San Antonio.
Among those city departments whose requests for funds were denied were Des Moines, Iowa; Tallassee, Florida; and Indianapolis.
Agencies receiving grants must develop best practices for the use of body cameras and keep statistics on their effectiveness during the two-year grant period. Each agency was required to come up with 50 percent in-kind or cash matching funds in order to qualify for the grants.
President Barack Obama has proposed more funding in the next two years to purchase 50,000 body cameras. The Bureau of Justice Assistance in the DOJ has set up a website to fully explain the various body camera initiatives and resources.