The U.S. Department of Justice said Friday the Obama administration will provide $20 million in grants to dozens of local police departments as part of a pilot program aimed at expanding the use of body cameras by police officers.
The move comes amid widespread protests over the April death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray while in the custody of Baltimore police. Gray’s death was one of a series of deadly incidents involving officers and unarmed black males in the last year.
“This body-worn camera pilot program is a vital part of the Justice Department’s comprehensive efforts to equip law enforcement agencies throughout the country with the tools, support, and training they need to tackle the 21st century challenges we face,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
“Body-worn cameras hold tremendous promise for enhancing transparency, promoting accountability, and advancing public safety for law enforcement officers and the communities they serve,” she said.
It is the first part of a $75 million, three-year body camera funding program announced in December by President Barack Obama. Officials say another $1 million will be set aside to study the impact of these cameras.
A string of cases, including the Freddie Gray incident in Baltimore and the August 2014 shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, has prompted calls for greater transparency from police across the United States.
The incidents have led to large protests across the nation over aggressive police tactics in minority communities.