Maricopa County Attorney pushing for statewide officer body cams

A statewide push for law enforcement to wear body cameras when out in the streets is coming from the Maricopa County Attorney as most law enforcement agencies around the country are re-examining policing practices.

Maricopa County Attorney, Allister Adel, sent letters to state lawmakers Sept. 23, saying now is the time to mandate body cameras for law enforcement.

"It's just good public policy. I know it's taxing financially especially for the smaller jurisdictions, but it gives transparency to the community, to all parties involved. The suspect, the victim, the police officer and the community as well and I felt the timing was right," Adel explained.

When it comes to the death of Arizona man, Dion Johnson, a Black man shot by a Department of Public Safety Trooper who was not wearing a body-worn cam, she says it would have been helpful to have the footage, even if it didn't change the outcome.

She decided no criminal charges would be filed against the trooper who fatally shot Johnson.

Jeff Hynes is a retired Phoenix Police Commander and now a professor at Glendale Community College. He says, in today's society, there's a demand for officers to wear cameras, but there are pros and cons that come along with them. 

A pro is that cameras help eliminate fear that officers are doing something wrong and show transparency. The con is that there are "enormous" costs as well as storage issues with the videos. 

He also asks how far will the mandate go when it comes to who it applies to.

"Will this be for first responders, detectives? What is the policy that will be involved in the application of everyone wearing body cameras?" Hynes says.

In Adel's letters to lawmakers, she brings up the issue on what the cost will be for the cameras, but adds that these cameras can provide more information for those judging someone's actions in an incident.

Part of the letter sent to several lawmakers reads, "As County Attorney for the third largest prosecutorial agency in the country, I believe this is a matter of public concern. I fully support the mandated use of body-worn cameras for all uniformed officers in the field throughout the state. While there are cost challenges associated with deploying body-worn cameras widely, these are challenges that must be addressed."

Adel is up for re-election this year and the Democratic nominee for Maricopa County Attorney, Julie Gunnigle, says of a potential statewide mandate, "Everyone knows that body-worn cameras for law enforcement is a smart policy decision that keeps us safe and makes our criminal justice system more transparent."

She calls Adel's push for the mandate so close to the election "a political stunt that contradicts Adel’s previous stances just over 40 days away from the general election."