April 23, 2024

Cops Are Getting Taxpayer-Funded Raises for Wearing Bodycams

  • Police officers are getting taxpayer-funded raises for wearing body cameras at work.
  • Unions seeking raises and bonuses call the increased benefits “accountability pay.”
  • Body cams are used by about half of all police departments and by 80% of large departments.

Police unions, responding to increasing calls for cops to be equipped with body cameras, are seeking taxpayer-funded raises for officers being asked to wear them. 

Coming in the form of both increased wages and bonuses, some law enforcement unions, like the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, call the benefits “accountability pay.”

The Globe and Mail reported in 2021 that Philly police sought a 5% pay raise for wearing the cameras during contract negotiations. While the complete 5% was not granted, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported officers received a one-time bonus of $1,500 in addition to raises of 2.75% in 2021 and 3.5% in 2022 and 2023.

But Pennsylvania cops aren’t the only ones seeking more compensation for complying with public calls for more transparency, which have increased since George Floyd was killed by a police officer who knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes. 

In Worcester, Massachusetts, officers were granted an annual $1,300 stipend for complying with bodycam requirements, The New York Times reported. 

“I cannot imagine that when community members called for police transparency and justice, beyond body cams, that they envisioned that it would come with a reward,” the outlet reported Etel Haxhiaj, one of three Worcester city councilors who opposed the stipend during a vote in May, said.

In addition to a $3.9 million contract with the company supplying the department with body cameras, the $1,300 stipends will cost Worcester an estimated $2 million over five years, the outlet reported. In Rhode Island, state troopers sought a $3,000 annual pay increase. Similar raises were granted to officers in Las Vegas and are being sought out by departments in Seattle, New York, and New Jersey. 

While the calls for increased pay for wearing body cameras have increased, their adoption is already reasonably widespread across the United States. In November 2018, the Bureau of Justice Statistics published a report on the use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement agencies and found that 47% of general-purpose agencies had body-worn cameras available for officers; for large police departments, that number increased to approximately 80%.

Among agencies that had acquired body-worn cameras, 60% of local police departments and 49% of sheriffs’ offices had fully deployed their body-worn cameras, BJS found.

Representatives for the National Fraternal Order of Police, New England Police Benevolent Association, Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, and Rhode Island State Police did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

Bodycam footage is often regarded as a benefit to both officers and civilians because it can be used to verify evidence and significantly reduces claims of misconduct levied against officers — one study by the Body-Worn Camera Training and Technical Assistance Team, a DOJ-funded research and training agency, estimates up to 90%. 

“It’s literally laughable how the situation has been manipulated by the unions,” the Times reported Charles Katz, a criminologist at Arizona State University, said: “Which other pieces of equipment that protect officers’ careers and lives have they charged extra for? They’re not charging extra for Kevlar vests.”

However, despite their benefits, high-profile cases, including the beating death of Tyre Nichols in February, involved officers either purposely turning off or failing to turn on their body cams while engaged in misconduct. In March, an Oklahoma City police chief requested an officer turn his camera off after the chief was pulled over for drunk driving, Insider reported.

“The whole purpose of the cameras was accountability,” Joseph Hennessey, a defense lawyer, told the Times “and they’re shutting them off.”

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