The debate over whether the Metro Council should create a funding mandate for the City Police department to purchase and utilize body cameras spilled into the weekend with council members chiming in with their thoughts via email.
At issue is an ordinance that Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle has proposed, that would mandate body cameras on all patrolling officers as of Jan. 1. Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. and the Mayor’s Office have said that while they support cameras, they are concerned about costs and that the ordinance would force them into spending millions of dollars they don’t have. After the measure failed at a poorly attended council meeting recently, it was revived and deferred to another vote that will be taken this Wednesday.
Councilman Buddy Amoroso on Friday submitted a resolution to be voted on that would merely offer support for body cameras in the police department, and set up a committee to study issues related to cost and privacy concerns associated with the cameras.
He forwarded the text of his ordinance to the full council, the mayor’s office, Dabadie and members of the media.
Marcelle responded via email that she has no interest in a non-binding resolution.
“As I explained to you when you suggested (this) resolution, this chief says that he supports the cameras, but the next chief may not see this as a priority, so that’s why it’s important that we mandate it,” she wrote.
Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe said he had reservations about Marcelle’s ordinance.
“What happens at budget time and they say they don’t have the money. We can’t mandate them to spend money out of their budget, wish we had that authority for sone other departments but we don’t. So your mandate can’t really mandate anything unless we find the money to pay for them. I understand you believe the money exists and don’t disagree but we don’t set their budget, that’s done across the hall. So explain how we mandate it please,” Loupe wrote.
Councilman Ryan Heck backed Marcelle.
“We pass laws. The mayors office administers those laws. We mandate spending at every council meeting I’ve attended. Tail wagging the dog…” he wrote.
Then Trae Welch told the council in the group email that the city-parish must mind its spending priorities.
“I support the implementation and the use. I don’t, however support mandating a program that I have no idea the true cost and what services may be cut to carry out that mandate,” Welch wrote.
Marcelle told the council that she considers that cameras a priority that should be taken seriously.
“My thought is that the body cameras should be considered as a priority and the department should work honestly to outfit and maintain them within their budget,” she said in a follow up email.
The council is expected to vote on both Marcelle and Amoroso’s conflicting body camera items on Wednesday.