Photo via The United States Marine Corps
A police officer wears a body camera as he conducts a routine traffic stop on Friday, Feb 2. The Reno City Council voted to approve funds for body cameras for the Reno Police Department.

During a Reno City Council meeting on Wednesday, March 28, council members approved spending $1.8 million to purchase body and vehicle cameras for the Reno Police Department.

The council voted unanimously in spending the $1.8 million to purchase and maintain cameras for the Reno Police Department. As of July 1, all officers will be required to wear a body camera while on duty.

All cameras will be stored at the main Reno Police station for charging and content upload to a data storage solution. According to Reno City Police Deputy Chief Mac Venzon, this will allow video content to be shared for evidentiary purposes.

“I think for everyone involved it would be easier for an investigation to have cameras on to see what happens,” councilmember Jenny Brekhus said.

According to Reno Police Chief Jason Soto, the body cameras are a step in the right direction for the relationship between the police and the community.

“I think it will bring a new level of trust and a better level of trust between our community than we already have by just having that video and that transparency,” Soto said.

While many officers already utilize cameras worn on their body or kept on their dashboard, a study done by the National Institute of Justice found that in 2013, only 25 percent of officers wore body cameras.

The push for transparency comes from the rising level of dissatisfaction with law enforcement in recent years. Body cameras have been essential to understanding law enforcement’s interactions with citizens in not only Reno, but nationwide.

Body cameras became a beneficial tool in the investigation of University Police officer Adam Wilson after he came under fire for making offensive comments to an African-American graduate student during a traffic stop. Wilson made a comment to graduate student Kevin McReynolds that many feel went too far.

“I’m just gonna have to shoot him if things go sideways,” Wilson said.

As an investigation of this incident took place, University Police Services shared the video to increase transparency and eliminate discrepancy of the encounter. Doing so increased trust between police and students as the investigation took place.

During the fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark in Sacramento, California, body cameras worn by two officers helped clarify what happened during the encounter under heightened media scrutiny. Had body cameras not been in use during the incident, advocates say, it is unlikely anyone would know what actually transpired.

While many are hoping this is a positive decision, some are still worried that officers will turn them off or mute them when “convenient”.

“What’s the punishment when they turn them off at inappropriate times?” Devon Wirtz wrote on Facebook.

While there are many positives to body cameras, including transparency and evidence, many are worried about what this will do to the privacy of officers.

Olivia Ali can be reached at mpurdue@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.