MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
As we just heard, city officials in North Charleston, in response to the shooting, plan to outfit their entire police department with body cameras. South Carolina State Rep. Wendell Gilliard is pushing two bills that would introduce body camera technology in police departments statewide. I asked Gilliard about his reaction to Mayor Keith Summey's announcement and also to the civilian video that changed the course of this case.
REPRESENTATIVE WENDELL GILLIARD: First, I think the accolade needs to go out to the person who had the audacity to stand there and videotape this most unfortunate incident. Because if it were not for that video, you and I would not be having this discussion. There would have been no rally. Everybody would have been in the waiting mode, and that's the most dangerous times of any in these types of situations.
Because you know what happens? Anxiety sets in. Speculation sets in. Mistrust - and then the hatred takes over. And God forbid it gets into releasing energy and frustration, breaking, rioting, et cetera. So I want to take a moment and thank that person, because we need to give the person credit where credit is due.
BLOCK: What's your reaction to the mayor's announcement today about body cameras for the city?
GILLIARD: You know, the mayor gave me a call. Well, I should say his office called me and asked me to come to this press release at 1 o'clock, because the mayor and I had this discussion many times when I first introduced he bills. And what I like about being at the state level, when you implement something, it gets people's attention statewide. And then, even though the bill might get delayed in subcommittee, guess what? Local municipalities will take it up and say, well, heck, we don't have to wait on the state. You know, they're dragging their feet; let's just go ahead and buy body cameras. They thought it was a good idea. So every time I hear a local municipality just go out there and just, you know, acquire body cameras, I am so proud. I give them a thumbs up.
BLOCK: Now, video doesn't always guarantee that police officers accused of misconduct are prosecuted. We've seen examples of that in other parts of the country. Why do you see this as a solution?
GILLIARD: I'm glad you asked that question, because it is not a total solution. It's a big step to help take a bite out of crime. In Rialto, Calif., where they first started the wearing of the body cameras, when you look at the statistics, well, guess what? The complaint against officers, they plunged 80-some odd percent. The forceful arrest by officers plummeted by 60-some odd percent. The proof is in the pudding. Believe me, it's in Rialto, Calif., and in any other place around this country that they've implemented body cameras.
BLOCK: You're speaking to us from City Hall. What is the atmosphere in the city?
GILLIARD: Somber, quiet - you know, everybody is really feeling bad. We know we have the eyes of the world watching us, but I challenge everybody just don't look to South Carolina. Look at your own state, because the problem is everywhere. And I also challenge them just don't look; get up and do something about it. Get involved. Get committed, 'cause that's the only way you're going to make a change. Because if you don't, this type of death will knock at your door.
BLOCK: That was South Carolina Democratic State Rep. Wendell Gilliard. He sponsored two bills to introduce statewide use of body cameras by law enforcement.
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