Ferguson, Missouri police receive training on body cameras

Ferguson, Missouri police are being trained to use and wear body cameras, CBS affiliate KMOV reports.

The training comes amid increased attention on police use of force in the wake of the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Following that shooting, local police in Ferguson donned riot gear and fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who refused to disperse and, at times, broke into nearby businesses.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said body cameras would have made a difference in the investigation of Brown's shooting.

KMOV reports that the battery-operated cameras clip to the top of the officers uniform shirt, and can record both audio and video. In total, the department will have 55 body cameras, enough for each officer in Ferguson, the station reported.

In the wake of Brown's controversial shooting, calls are growing for police officers to wear body cameras to help clarify how certain incidents unfold.

"It seems to me that before we give federal funds to police departments, we ought to mandate that they have body cams," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, said Monday, the Springfield News-Leader reports. "I think that [body cams] would go a long way toward solving some of these problems, and it would be a great legacy over this tragedy that's occurred in Ferguson."

A federal lawsuit filed Thursday alleges that police in Ferguson and St. Louis County used excessive force and falsely arrested innocent bystanders amid attempts to quell widespread unrest after the fatal shooting of Brown.

Policing in the digital age means every moment, every incident can be caught on camera - and sometimes, followed by accusations of excessive use of force. But now, hundreds of police departments are exploring whether their own cameras might create a more complete picture of a scene, CBS News correspondent Teri Okita reported.

Rialto, California Police Chief Tony Farrar believes outfitting police officers with body cameras is going to become the norm.

"This is something that's changing the face of law enforcement," he said.

The American Civil Liberty Union's Peter Bibring says his organization, which normally opposes surveillance of citizens, endorses the body cameras, and not just in Rialto.

"A picture's worth a thousand words and video, many more," Bibring said. "And video, from the perspective of the officer, is going to be an invaluable tool in determining why an officer acted the way he or she did - and whether he or she acted appropriately."

Laurel, Maryland Deputy Police Chief James Brooks told CBS News that all of his street officers now wear cameras. To Brooks, it's all about accountability.

For example, in the case of a drunk driving incident, the officer would only have had his account without the camera.

"So now you are going down the road, you see a car maybe weaving back and forth, you can turn your camera on and start to capture that evidence that you may want to present for a DUI case in court," Brooks said.

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