Tennessee city approves police body cameras, social worker

Published 2:08 pm Wednesday, July 29, 2020

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KNOXVILLE (AP) — A Tennessee city has approved the purchase of body cameras for its police force and the hiring of a social worker to ride with patrol officers on mental health-related calls.
The Knoxville City Council approved the contracts Tuesday in a move aimed at bringing transparency to the city’s police department, news outlets reported.
The council unanimously approved a $4.9 million contract for 350 new body cameras as well as upgraded police cruiser cameras to be implemented this fall, The Knoxville News-Sentinel said.
The push for the cameras was renewed last year following the fatal shooting of Channara Pheap by Knoxville officer Dylan Williams, according to the newspaper. Prosecutors determined evidence supported the officer’s account that Pheap attacked him. The shooting was not captured on video.
Officials also agreed to pilot a coresponse program with a local mental health provider that would pair a social worker with a police officer to improve the response when police are called to behavioral health crises, according to the department.
Some health professionals have raised concerns that pairing a behavioral health professional with an officer could escalate the situations they respond to, the News-Sentinel said.
Some councilmembers said Tuesday that they want to pursue additional reforms in the future.
“I hope this isn’t viewed that this is all we’re going to do,” the newspaper quoted Councilor Charles Thomas as saying. “We’re not doing nearly enough.”

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