- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - For months, Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle has called on the Police Department to implement body cameras- and now she says she wants to take it a step further.

Marcelle is seeking an ordinance that would require all patrolling officers to wear body cameras as of Jan. 1. The proposed ordinance won’t come up for a vote until later this month.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1PhMktU) Marcelle has led the charge for the new technology since September. The request has the support of Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. and the Mayor’s Office, but the cameras have yet to materialize because of a lack of funding.

Marcelle says an ordinance would force officials to prioritize the funding and ensure the body cameras are implemented.

“I can’t do anything about the 2015 budget, but my intent is to make sure they include it in the 2016 budget,” she said.

The Baton Rouge Police Department, for its part, has been actively seeking financing for the body cameras, which are currently being used in cities across the nation, including New Orleans and Thibodaux.

The city Police Department has applied for a $700,000 federal grant and is waiting for approval to fund about 700 cameras.

In the meantime, the department has pulled together financing to pay for about 100 cameras for a pilot program to test the cameras and develop a policy. Some of those cameras have already been purchased.

“We are currently looking to start a pilot program with a hundred cameras to give us a better idea of what it will all include - cameras, storage, computer equipment, maintenance fees and personnel to redact and view all video,” Dabadie said in an email.

He expressed concern, however, about an ordinance that would make the cameras mandatory for all officers.

“We support our officers wearing them, but do not want to create a situation where we can’t afford to keep them once we get them,” Dabadie said.

Lt. Jonny Dunnam, a department spokesman, said a full body camera program could cost about $2 million. In addition to cameras, the agency will have to fund servers to store the video feeds and do other technology maintenance.

The issue of police cameras in Baton Rouge was raised in the fall amid growing confrontations between protesters and police in Ferguson, Missouri, after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by a police officer.

Marcelle said even though the stories about the need for body cameras have fallen from the headlines, she is still committed to seeing them through.

“Having an extra set of eyes that don’t change makes a big difference,” Marcelle said. “If police say a citizen did something, or if a citizen says police did something, both ways it’s a win-win. It won’t be an issue for people who are following the law.”

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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