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Cleveland Police Union Head Resisting Calls For Body Cameras

In the wake of several high-profile citizen deaths involving Cleveland Police, the city wants to equip its officers with body cameras. But the head of the Cleveland police union is critical of the plan. Jim Letizia reports.  

Union chief Steve Loomis says the cameras are unconstitutional and a waste of money. 

"You don't think, in this day and age, and in the situation that we're in here, that there's a lot better ways to spend that money?  And the video is not going to be conclusive in most cases, and it's gonna actually cause more harm than good.  And then there's constitutional issues.  You know, I don't have the right to come into your house and videotape your house - that's a public record.  Imagine Tamir Rice - and those officers had body cameras on - and that happened so quickly, that that rookie officer forgot to push that button on that camera.  Imagine that, what the outcry would be.  Put the cameras in the cars, and let's see how that works." 
The city plans to purchase more than one thousand body cameras at a cost of more than two million dollars. The money would come from the proceeds of planned a 100-million dollar bond sale.
Last November, an officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was carrying an airsoft gun that shoots non-lethal plastic pellets. Police say Rice was told to raise his hands three times, but surveillance video shows the officer fired within 2 seconds of pulling up to the scene. The Rice family says police acted too quickly and his death could have been avoided.
The city recently settled a federal lawsuit filed by the estates of two unarmed African-Americans killed in a hail of 137 gunshots fired by police after a chase in November 2012. 43-year-old Timothy Russell and 30-year-old Malissa Williams were killed after a 20-mile pursuit that involved 62 cruisers and more than 100 officers.
Meanwhile, city officials are facing at least two other wrongful death lawsuits involving police. A federal judge is allowing portions of a lawsuit filed by the family of Rodney Brown to proceed.  Brown died in 2010 while in custody after struggling with officers during a traffic stop.  His family says he was having a heart attack, and officers ignored his calls for help. The family of Tanisha Anderson has also filed a lawsuing claiming officers responding to a call for mental health assistance used excessive force on her. Anderson died in police custody last November. The officers allegedly threw Anderson to the ground and handcuffed her during a seizure, causing her to die of complications from heart disease.

Jim has been with WCBE since 1996. Before that he worked as a reporter at another Columbus radio station, and for three newspapers in Southwest Florida.
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