Brown death could hasten police body cameras (Houston Chronicle)

The shooting of a black teenager in Missouri by a white police officer has prompted Houston Police Chief Charles A. McClelland, Jr., to push forward with a plan to have every officer outfitted with a body camera.

"Because of the incident that happened in Ferguson, I just think that it's a matter of time before every law enforcement agency in the United States has body cameras," McClelland said Wednesday. "It's not 'if' anymore, it's 'when.'"

He spoke as demonstrators, for a second straight day, gathered in Houston Wednesday to protest the decision by the grand jury not to indict officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown.

"We are dealing with a system of global white supremacy and racism," said Kofi Taharka of the National Black United Front at the protest.

"Houston is no different from Ferguson," said Taharka, at the rally attended by dozens of people outside the downtown high-rise that houses the Greater Houston Partnership.

Several Houston police officers were watching the demonstration but kept their distance. HPD officials at the scene said there were no arrests.

At his regular briefing, McClelland said a body camera might have provided additional evidence to confirm whether the shooting in Missouri was lawful or not.

"It would have given grand jurors additional information to base their decision on one way or the other but it would have also given the public some piece of mind," McClelland said.

He said the photographic evidence would have been nothing less than an independent and objective piece of evidence.

"And that's what people are not trusting in Ferguson and some other parts of the country right now. They question what information is being given from law enforcement, prosecutors and people in the criminal justice system," McClelland said.

Doniell Hawkins brought his daughter, Kennedy, 7, and son Isaiah, 10, to the demonstration because they had questions about the events in Ferguson.

"I want them to be a little better informed about the world they are inheriting," Hawkins said. "This is about right and wrong."

Others at the demonstration also urged people to flex their economic muscle by boycotting businesses on Friday, traditionally a major shopping day.

"It is not a happy holiday. It is not 'business as usual,'" said speaker Jinaki Muhammad.

Outfitting more than 5,000 Houston police officers with body cameras would take about a year to complete and come with a $7 million price tag, McClelland said.

In August, McClelland said he was going to seek funds to equip HPD officers over three years with small body cameras to record encounters between law enforcement and residents as a way of improving accountability and transparency.

Taharka said his organization hasn't done much study on the issue of police officer body cameras. If such a device can be shown to reduce the number of officer-involved shootings, he said it would be a "good idea."