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A Missouri state lawmaker has introduced two bills in the Missouri House of Representatives that would require uniformed police officers to wear video cameras while on duty. Many consider forcing police officers to wear body cameras to be a positive step that will serve to impede police abuse, but the devil is in the details of the law. The body cameras would be funded by a new statewide tax on firearm and ammunition sales.
State Rep. Brandon Ellington, a Kansas City Democrat, introduced House bill 75 and 76, which initiate a new 1 percent tax on each retail sale of handguns and ammunition. The newly confiscated “revenue” would be used to pay for the cost of video cameras to be worn by all Missouri police officers when they interact with the public while on duty. The language in HB 75 and HB 76 states that interactions would be required to be saved for thirty days. However, law enforcement officers working undercover would be exempt from wearing the devices. If this law passes, get ready for a spike in undercover police work in Missouri!
In December, Ellington told local media station KCTV, “That’s something that I think is a necessity not only when we look at what happened in Ferguson, but when we look at inner-city interactions between law enforcement,”
The body camera debate has pros and cons on each side, but Ellington has further muddied the waters by proposing to fund the program by taxing law abiding gun owners. It should come as no surprise that the National Rifle Association has released a press release very critical of funding mechanism being proposed for the legislation:
Forcing law-abiding Missourians to pay an additional tax on firearm and ammunition purchases is unmerited. Gun owners and purchasers should not be responsible for funding these projects. The NRA will continue to fight against such misguided encroachments on those who exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Personally, I’m a bit torn on the topic of the wearing of body cameras by police officers. Part of me thinks it would be extremely helpful in holding cops accountable and serving to provide a factual account when law enforcement harms individuals or property. The other part of me doesn’t want the cameras used by police chiefs to ensure their deputies are enforcing laws consistently. My reasoning for this is simple – there are a ton of shitty, rights-infringing laws. It’s safe to say at least a fair amount of cops looks the other way, rather than being bothered with pursuing a petty “criminal.”
Ideally, body camera laws should be based upon consent. If a local community or city decides they want their police officers to wear cameras, then they should be free to do so. And they should also be free to determine how to pay for the cameras without using coercive tactics to extract funds from individuals that do not consent to their property being stolen.
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