State House Committee approves JPSO body cam resolution

State House Committee approves JPSO body cam resolution
A state house committee this afternoon approved resolutions designed to reform police departments in the wake of recent killings. (Source: rob masson)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A state house committee this afternoon approved resolutions designed to reform police departments in the wake of recent killings. One resolution calls for the Jefferson Parish sheriff’s office to adopt policies regarding the use of police body cams, but lawmakers were told cost could be a factor.

Some Jefferson Parish lawmakers are now pushing the Jefferson Parish sheriff’s office to get body cams as well, in the wake of recent police shootings which sparked protest earlier this week.

At the house criminal justice committee meeting, the bill sponsor said the time has come.

“The ask is for the Jefferson Parish sheriff’s office to begin the process for establishing an effective body-worn camera program and to adapt all the measures and policies for proper use,” said Rep. Rodney Lyons (D-Harvey)

Committee member and former law officer From Thibodaux, says body cam video could’ve made his life a lot easier after his involvement In a controversial police shooting several years ago.

“If I had that body camera on that you’re requesting within two minutes I got approved that I was actually just fine and shooting a white male subject,” said Rep. Bryan Fontenot (R-Thibodaux).

Family members of recent police shooting victims say they simply want the truth.

“We’re still fighting this case and they haven’t given us any answers we would like for them to have body cameras,” said Gaynell Joseph, whose brother Chris was fatally shot at a Westbank restaurant, last year.

During the debate, one Jefferson parish lawmaker raised concerns over cost.

“I think somewhere between $10 and $12 million which would be approximately 50 percent of the sheriff’s operating budget,” said Rep. Debbie Villio (R-Kenner).

The Mandeville Police Department recently adopted body cams and the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office is looking for ways to fund such a program and one lawmaker suggested working together to lower costs.

“St. Tammany, we’re your neighbors to the north maybe we can get a bulk discount if we get together,” said Rep. Richard Nelson (R-Mandeville).

After two hours of debate, the measure calling for Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s office to establish policies regarding body-worn cameras passed without objection.

Though the resolution doesn’t have the force of law body cam supporters hope it will help establish a framework for one of the state’s largest sheriff’s offices to get body cameras, as has already been done in New Orleans and dozens of other Louisiana jurisdictions.

Several lawmakers say they have been in discussions with Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto about body cams. He did not attend today’s legislative meeting and has not responded to our request for comment on today’s vote.

Copyright 2020 WVUE. All rights reserved.