A South Carolina congressman said Monday that he does not want to see Congress debate the idea of police body cameras — which he says should be a local issue.
At a town hall forum in Rock Hill Monday night, U.S. Congressman Mick Mulvaney said he would like the federal government to keep its hands off that particular issue, according to WRHI.
“I’d rather see the decision made locally,” Mulvaney, a Republican from Indian Land, said. He added there is plenty of precedent of the federal government “sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong.”
Lawmakers in Columbia are considering two different versions of a bill that would equip South Carolina’s 12,000 law enforcement officers with the chest-mounted devices in order to record the officers’ interactions with the public.
“Let’s see if the states and the counties and the towns can work it out first,” Mulvaney, a former state legislator, said. “I’m hopeful South Carolina takes the lead on this issue.”
The issue has come to the forefront following the early April shooting death of Walter Scott by North Charleston police officer Michael Slager. Video evidence captured by an eyewitness and later released to Scott’s family appears to show Slager shooting Scott in the back as the suspect fled through a vacant lot. The video quickly led to Slager’s dismissal from the department and a murder charge.
“When the Reverend Al Sharpton congratulates North Charleston on how it handled the situation maybe they’ve done it right,” Mulvaney said of the decision.
The Scott shooting prompted members of the General Assembly to quickly assemble drafts of body camera legislation.
Several victim’s advocate groups said they had concerns about the extent of body camera use, including privacy and Freedom of Information request issues. Law enforcement groups are also worried about the potential costs of the cameras and data storage. A revenue impact study done for the Senate’s version of the bill estimates it would cost about $21 million to equip most state and local law officers with the cameras the first year, and $12 million per year after that.
Lawmakers have until the first week in June to consider the bill.
Andrew Kiel of Rock Hill station WRHI filed this report