Phoenix City Council OKs body camera funding for police officers

PHOENIX (AP/FOX 10) -- The Phoenix City Council has approved funding to equip 2,000 city police officers with body-worn cameras.

The funding was approved at Wednesday afternoon's meeting.

"We have this goal and this commitment of being transparent to our community," said Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams. "We have this goal of increasing trust in our community, and I'm certain that we will do this with a body worn camera system."

Councilwoman Felicita Mendoza says the action will increase the safety of the community as well as police officers.

Councilwoman Laura Pastor says the implementation of the body cameras for police on Phoenix streets has been a long time coming.

She adds that the apparatus has the potential to save lives and prevent needless accidents, ensures accountability and can build bridges between the police and communities throughout the city.

The program is set to cost about $5.8 million over the next five years. Police officials say the cameras will automatically turn on, once an officer opens their door, or activates their overhead lights. Wednesday's decision comes, amidst public concerns that officer-involved shootings more than doubled between 2017 and 2018, rising from 21 to 44. Half of the shootings were deadly, and some residents say the body cameras are only the first step to a transparent police department.

"We do not and cannot trust this department," said one person. "As we've said for several years, body cameras are the bare minimum, the absolute bare minimum in the steps that can be taken towards transparency."

Police say the goal is to equip every officer with a camera in six months.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.