Dash cameras can help make or break a case but in Memphis, police cars don't have them.
A dash camera may have shed light on the Jan. 17 officer-involved killing of 24-year-old Steven Askew.
Police say they shot and killed Mr. Askew after he pointed a gun at them while in his car. Witnesses say Mr. Askew was sleeping in his car, waiting for his girlfriend to arrive home.
Unfortunately, he can't tell his side of the story. With no dash camera video, the sequence of events is just not clear.
Family members of Mr. Askew hired an attorney to launch an independent investigation after Officers Ned Aufdenkamp, 30, and Matthew Dyess, 31, shot and killed him. The family suspects reckless officer conduct, but police say he first pointed a gun at them.
However, there's no dash camera to support either side.
"I don't want to draw any conclusions about what a dash camera could do," said Councilman Harold Collins. "We know what a dash camera can do."
City council recently approved Councilman Collins' ordinance which would help fund dash board cameras in Memphis police cruisers. Collins stresses dash cameras improve officer safety, accountability, and help nail arrests.
FOX13 News has learned only two squad cars out of the police department's entire fleet have dash cameras. Those two cruisers are part of a pilot program. FOX13 News first reported the city's error in improperly designating dash camera money to the general fund. Since our story aired in November 2012, technical wording has stalled the process.
"There was some confusion I guess in the ordinance and so the administration wanted to clarify," Councilman Collins said.
The ordinance now explains the distribution of specific dollars generated from red light cameras for dash board cameras, GPS tracking or SkyCop systems. MPD is researching technology, but 2013 devices could capture a different look.
"Technology the size of a flashlight, so a lot of police departments are even getting away from doing it in cars, and officers are actually wearing technology," Councilman Kemp Conrad said.
"We've never went down that road to try and get it here in Memphis," added Police Director Toney Armstrong. "Again, I'm certainly interested in it."
While Councilman Collins says there's about $600,000 slotted for dashcams, Director Armstrong says he expects costs around several million dollars.
City council still needs to approve two more readings of the ordinance. Then the ordinance will need to be approved as part of the final budget later this year.
WHBQ-TV | Fox 13
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