Obama administration says to provide $20 million for police body cameras

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President Obama Sets Aside 20M For Police Body Cameras

(Reuters) - The Obama administration will provide $20 million in grants to local police departments to help buy body cameras for officers, the U.S. Justice Department said on Friday.

The grants represent the first portion to be approved by Congress of a $75 million, three-year body camera funding program requested in December by President Barack Obama.

Demand for the cameras, which clip onto officers' uniforms to record interactions with citizens, has risen amid a series of deadly altercations between police and unarmed black men, followed by protests in several American cities.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said last week that she would launch a body-camera pilot program after a black man died from a spinal injury while in police custody.

Some critics have accused Obama of doing too little to respond to the shootings. Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that the United States should make sure every police department has body cameras.

The cameras are expensive for police departments still struggling to regain pre-recession funding levels.

Los Angeles, which plans to deploy 860 cameras this summer, will spend $1.5 million in the first year to cover equipment, maintenance and storage.

The American Civil Liberties Union has warned that body camera use must be governed by standards that protect the privacy of those being recorded.

The federal funding will match local funds and be available only to departments that already have body camera policies in place, the Justice Department said in a fact sheet.

It will match funds dedicated to buying cameras and training police on how to use them, but not for storage of the footage they capture, which can often make up the bulk of the cost.

Departments awarded the money will be part of a pilot program, overseen by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, to evaluate the impacts of body cameras.

(Reporting by Julia Edwards; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Lisa Shumaker and Susan Heavey)

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Obama administration says to provide $20 million for police body cameras
Daniel H Smith demonstrates outside City Hall in Philadelphia on Thursday, April 30, 2015. The event in Philadelphia follows days of unrest in Baltimore amid Freddie Gray's police-custody death in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Protesters rush a police line after a rally at City Hall in Philadelphia on Thursday, April 30, 2015. The event in Philadelphia follows days of unrest in Baltimore amid Freddie Gray's police-custody death. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 30: Micaiah Bakues-Freeman, 9, joins protestors demonstrating over the death of Freddy Gray outside City Hall on April 30, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Freddie Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 30: Protestors march over the death of Freddy Gray on April 30, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Freddie Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 30: Protestors march in demonstration over the death of Freddy Gray on April 30, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Freddie Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
Protesters clash with police in Philadelphia on Thursday, April 30, 2015. The event in Philadelphia follows days of unrest in Baltimore amid Freddie Gray's police-custody death. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 30: Protestors linger in front of a large contingent of police officers after marching over the death of Freddy Gray on April 30, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Freddie Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
Protesters march after a rally at City Hall in Philadelphia on Thursday, April 30, 2015. The event in Philadelphia follows days of unrest in Baltimore amid Freddie Gray's police-custody death. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 30: Protestors march over the death of Freddy Gray on April 30, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Freddie Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: A man takes part in a Solidarity Baltimore rally on April 29, 2015 in New York City. Baltimore, Maryland remains on edge in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, though the city has been largely peaceful following a day of rioting this past Monday. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: An NYPD Officer stands watch at a Solidarity Baltimore rally in Times Square on April 29, 2015 in New York City. Baltimore, Maryland remains on edge in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, though the city has been largely peaceful following a day of rioting this past Monday. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: A woman takes part in a Solidarity With City Of Baltimore rally at Union Square on April 29, 2015 in New York City. in Baltimore, Maryland remains on edge in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, though the city has been largely peaceful following a day of rioting this past Monday. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. . (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
Protestors hold signs during a protest to support the rallies in Baltimore, in front of the White House, Wednesday, April 29, 2015 in Washington. Freddie Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a Baltimore police van. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
A person is arrested by police officers near Union Square, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in New York. People gathered to protest the death of Freddie Gray, a Baltimore man who was critically injured in police custody. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
A man is carried by police officers as arrests are made at Union Square, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in New York. People gathered to protest the death of Freddie Gray, a Baltimore man who was critically injured in police custody. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Protesters march on the west side of Manhattan Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in New York. People gathered in several areas on New York to protest the death of Freddie Gray, a Baltimore man who was critically injured in police custody. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Protesters move along as they are pushed off 42nd Street by police near Times Square Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in New York. People gathered in several areas of New York to protest the death of Freddie Gray, a Baltimore man who was critically injured in police custody. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
A person is arrested by police officers near Union Square, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in New York. People gathered to protest the death of Freddie Gray, a Baltimore man who was critically injured in police custody. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: Demonstrators snarl traffic as they try to block an entrance to the Holland Tunnel during a solidarity protest of the death of Freddie Gray on April 29, 2015 in New York City. Baltimore, Maryland remains on edge in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, though the city has been largely peaceful following a day of rioting this past Monday. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police. (Photo by Michael Abbott/Getty Images)
Protesters slam their hands against a bus shelter as they chant Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in New York. People gathered to protest the death of Freddie Gray, a Baltimore man who was critically injured in police custody. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
New York, NY-April 29: New Yorkers protest the death of Baltimore, Maryland Police victim Freddie Gray in a show of solidarity in the Union Square section of New York City on April 29, 2015 in New York City. Credit: RTNJennings/MediaPunch/IPX
Protesters chant on 42nd Street Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in New York. Hundreds of people gathered in several areas on New York to protest the death of Freddie Gray, a Baltimore man who was critically injured in police custody. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Protestors lay in the street to stage a die-in at Herald Square, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in New York. Several hundred people gathered in New York on Wednesday to protest the death of Freddie Gray, a Baltimore man who was critically injured in police custody, and more than a dozen were arrested. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Protesters yell out in Union Square Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in New York. People gathered to protest the death of Freddie Gray, a Baltimore man who was critically injured in police custody. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: A man gestures to a police officer during a Solidarity Baltimore rally on April 29, 2015 in New York City. Baltimore, Maryland remains on edge in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, though the city has been largely peaceful following a day of rioting this past Monday. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: An NYPD Officer keeps watch at a Solidarity Baltimore rally in Times Square on April 29, 2015 in New York City. Baltimore, Maryland remains on edge in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, though the city has been largely peaceful following a day of rioting this past Monday. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: A man takes part in a Solidarity Baltimore rally on April 29, 2015 in New York City. Baltimore, Maryland remains on edge in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, though the city has been largely peaceful following a day of rioting this past Monday. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: A woman takes part in a Solidarity With City Of Baltimore rally at Union Square on April 29, 2015 in New York City. in Baltimore, Maryland remains on edge in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, though the city has been largely peaceful following a day of rioting this past Monday. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. . (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
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