By TRAVIS LOLLER Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — After years of delay, Nashville will begin rolling out body cameras and in-car cameras for much of its police force next month, Mayor John Cooper said in a news release Monday.
Former Mayor Megan Barry first promised to fund body cameras several years ago, but the project has been repeatedly delayed over concerns about cost. On Monday, Cooper said camera vendor Motorola has agreed to delay payment for two years, bringing the cost for 2021 to $2.1 million.
The announcement comes amid a national outcry over policing tactics, including days of protests in Nashville over the May 25 death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white police officer pressed a knee to his neck. While the city's protests have been largely peaceful, they did turn destructive one evening several demonstrators toppled a statue of a former state lawmaker who espoused racist views and set a fire inside the city's historic courthouse.
Meanwhile, a routine budget hearing in Nashville last week ran until 5:30 a.m. as hundreds of people showed up or called in asking the council to defund police and put more money into social services.
Monday's announcement drew praise from the city's police watchdog, the Community Oversight Board, which issued a statement calling cameras "a step in the right direction." The board went on to say, "We want to be clear that this is not the sole solution that will change organizational culture and fix systemic problems that have existed for decades, even centuries."
The roll out will begin next month in the West Precinct, which is the only one that currently has sufficient technology infrastructure in place to begin using the cameras. Work to upgrade the infrastructure at other precincts is to be completed within six months with deployment to begin no later than February.
Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk also welcomed the announcement, saying it has worked with other stakeholders to develop a plan for dealing with the footage that will "protect everyone's rights."