Body cameras and their use within the policing sector is a topic that will most likely bring more legitimacy to policing operations and regular work; however questions of privacy and officer freedom are areas of concern.

It only due to fairly recent technological advancements that such an incredible feat can be produced: watching the watchers from their point of view. Generally a body camera is a small, mountable camera that records audio and visual within a varying scope depending on the make and model. The company that made its name in mountable cameras is GoPro and their ‘Hero’ series (http://gopro.com/), starting at a mere $129.99 ranging to upwards of $499.99. These cameras are small and have a rigid housing that is waterproof (up to 40m) and has HD capabilities for whatever one may put it through. Other companies that hope to make a name for themselves in the policing side of mountable cameras are Vievu (http://www.vievu.com/), and the international company that made its name in non-lethal alternatives, Taser International (http://www.taser.com/). Both Vievu and Taser have two cameras that are being marketed; Vievu ‘Straight Shooter 25’ (starting at $199.99) and the upgraded version ‘Solution’ ($399.99-499.99); Taser int. has two diverse cameras, one mountable ‘Axon’ ($399.99) and the other even smaller ‘Axon Flex’ that can be mounted on glasses, hats or cruisers but also has a bigger price tag of $599.99. The Main differences are Vievu and Taser requiring a monthly fee for law enforcement for memberships of secure storage, whereas GoPro only supply the camera and accessories. The choice is not forced, but up to the discretion of the individual police force upon which device is to be purchased.

One organization that took it upon themselves to implement mounted body cameras was the Vancouver Police Department during the court ordered disbanding of the ‘tent city’ in Oppenheimer Park in 2014. The V.P.D. bought and mounted eight GoPro cameras with chest mounts to get the perspective of the officers as they aided in the court order (Vancouver Sun, 2014). One of the main reasons behind the cameras was because of many members of the public fearing police brutality and questionable practices, but with the video evidence, if any misdeeds were to occur, more evidence would be present opposed to a video uploaded onto YouTube showing the result of an interaction.

The reasoning behind much of the push for mounted cameras is to get more of the view of the officer and what leads up to an interaction because most complaints pertaining to the police go unrecorded, while the main police discrepancies come through the viewing of an amateur video on the internet such as the cases of Robert Dziekanski or Sammy Yatim (Goldsmith, 2010). With the main goal of ensuring integrity, this new form of officer perspective will hopefully play an important role in the future.

If body cameras had been implemented to all officers, both in Canada and the US, incidences like the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown and the 2nd Degree murder charge for Delta’s Constable Jordan MacWilliams could have been used in the courts as evidence. The case of Jordan MacWilliams did not lead to a nationwide outcry as Ferguson, but it did lead to police forces in BC to questioning the charges laid for an officer doing their duty (CBC, 2014). Ferguson however, sparked disintegration of the already strenuous relationship between the public and police (NBC, 2014), so the video evidence of a body camera might have aided in the ruling of the officer involved, but may not have had too great of an effect on the public conception of police practices. However what cameras will affect are the actions and interactions officers and members of the public, both in what they do, what they say or not say due to the fact that on the other end of the camera ‘someone could be watching’. With the cameras every present, this creates a mesh of both a Panopticon and Synopticon (Goldsmith, 2010). The police (the few) oversee the public (the many), this being a Panopticon, and with the public reviewing the actions of the police, a Synopticon, then the situation is converted into a mesh between both because of the cameras on the perspectives of the public and the police.

However, with the Panopticon (few watching the many) perspective (Goldsmith, 2010) and the everyday body camera use, the personal privacy and officer actions such as discretion could often be compromised. Much of the police assemblage does not involve just crime prevention, but also community policing (Brodeur, 2010), and if every interaction were recorded, conversations of private matters, such as familial situations, questionable morals or even everyday occurrences are recorded and some of the information may not have meant to go past the people involved. The other side is police discretion and restriction of their freedom of judgment; what an officer might choose to do may not look good in the eyes of the Criminal Code, such as if petty crimes being left to discretion. However, cases of mass demonstrations and larger micro-crisis (Brodeur, 2010) the use of body cameras may be of great importance not only in keeping an officer’s integrity intact but also used as evidence against, or for, a member of the public in front of the courts. I believe that cameras should be used with discretion of the police department in specific event or areas/populations being patrolled to ensure fairness in their actions.

Sources:

Brodeur, J.-P. (2010). The Police Assemblage. In The Policing Web (pp. 17–42). New York: Oxford University Press.

CBC. (2014, December 22). Delta police pull wristbands for Const. Jordan MacWilliams – British Columbia – CBC News. Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/delta-police-pull-wristbands-for-const-jordan-macwilliams-1.2881242

Goldsmith, A. J. (2010). Policing’s New Visibility. British Journal of Criminology50(5), 914–934. 
 NBC. (n.d.). Michael Brown       Shooting – Ferguson Missouri News & Top Stories – NBC News. Retrieved February 10, 2015, from  http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/michael-brown-shooting

The Vancouver Sun. (2014, October 14). Vancouver police to wear body cameras for disbanding of Oppenheimer Park homeless camp. Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Vancouver police wear body            cameras disbanding Oppenheimer/10288906/story.html

Police Body Cameras and Police Accountability

Posted: February 25, 2015 by jarnelldosanjh92 in Uncategorized

Taser international, Vievu, and Vidcie are some of the many companies that are producing police body cameras. Police body cameras include two components. Firstly there is a button for the police officer to double tap so that the camera starts recording. Secondly there is a lipstick sized camera that attaches to any headgear or perhaps an officer’s collar using a secure magnetic mount. The body cameras Bievu sells have a slider that turns the camera on, and the camera is mounted on a police officer’s chest. The cameras are being used in a number of British and American cities, including London and New York. Calgary is the first large Canadian police service to make the move, but several other cities, including Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax and Montreal, are looking at testing and adopting the cameras. The police body camera is supposed to serve as a measure or a check against abusive powers of the police. It has been argued that these cameras will help protect the public from police deviance and as well as protect police officers from false accusations. Even though the body cams have the potential to reduce police deviance the cams are expensive; a single set costs between 200  to 1000 dollars (Vox, 2015). In New York City, a report from the city’s public advocate found that outfitting the entire police department with body cameras would cost $33 million.The battery life can last up to 12 hours. What led to the phenomenon of the police body cam was the Micheal Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. Proponents of this new technology have argued that such cameras could have prevented the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager shot by a white Ferguson officer, because law-enforcement officials would know there would be a visual record of their actions. The death of the 12-year-old Tamir Rice by Timothy Loehmann in Cleveland, and the strangulation of Eric Garner by Daniel Pantaleo in New York, have also ignited the debate of using police body cams as well. The proposal for outfitting police around the United States with body cameras has even been dubbed “the Michael Brown law.” Supporters say that the cameras will help boost transparency in officer interactions with the public. But their increasing use also raises questions about privacy.

Proponents of police body cameras include advocates for people with addictions and mental illness, as well as various civil-liberties organizations (Globe and Mail, 2014). They argue that body worn cameras will encourage transparency by making police officers more self aware about using force against vulnerable individuals. The White House has been a major proponent of police body cameras. Last year after the Micheal Brown incident in Ferguson, U.S president Bracket Obama asked Congress in December for 75 million dollars in grant money to help law enforcement agencies purchase more cameras. The President’s proposal would act as a broader community policing initiative designed to ease tensions between officers and citizens. The American Civil Liberties Union claim that the cameras have the potential to be a win-win situation. Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union explained that ” a lot of departments are finding that for every time they’re used to record an abusive officer, there are other times where they save an officer from a false accusation of abuse or unprofessional behavior” (Vox, 2015). BrickHouse Security, a company that manufactures the cameras conducted a survey that found that 72 percent of respondents support body cameras. Police Foundation Executive, Chief Tony Farrar, completed an extensive yearlong study to evaluate the effect of body-worn video cameras on police use-of-force. Cameras were deployed to all patrol officers in the Rialto, California Police Department. Every police patrol shift during the 12-month period was assigned to experimental or control conditions. Wearing cameras was associated with dramatic reductions in use-of-force and complaints against officers. The authors concluded that “the findings suggest more than a 50% reduction in the total number of incidents of use-of-force compared to control-conditions” (Police Foundation, 2013), and nearly ten times more citizens’ complaints in the 12-months prior to the experiment. Ed Mullins, a sergeant in the New York City Police Department and president of the NYPD Sergeants union, is skeptical about body cameras. Mullins is worried that recordings from body cameras could harm an officer’s day-to-day work. For example a confidential informant could be reluctant to talk to a cop who’s wearing a body camera. That could make it harder for police to track down a suspect . Sergeant Mullins adds that the cameras could be used to go after police for petty or political problems. For example, an officer could end up getting in trouble for a dirty joke with his partner that was caught on camera. Mullins further explains that the cameras post a privacy issue; people could have an issue with having their every move recorded simply because a police officer is around, even in a public setting.The privacy concerns may further intensify if an officer comes into a person’s home, where the recording could present a clear violation of someone’s right to privacy on private property. My opinion of the body cams is that I support the use of body cameras, but I am weary of privacy concerns, and who has control over the recordings. My reasons for supporting the body cameras specify that if there is a recording of an event then there will be a clear account of that event, thus protecting an officer from false accusations. I believe that the cameras will make officers behave more professionally on duty. If an officer’s actions are being recorded and if those actions involve misconduct there will be clear visual evidence. Body cameras will force police officers to become more self aware about using excessive force against individuals like the mentally handicapped and drug addicts. Another positive about the body cameras is that they could be used as a evidence collecting tool as well. These cameras perhaps raise some issues. The cameras are very expensive, the price of body cams can range from $200 to $1000. If there is a policy of a continuous recording throughout a police officer’s shift, can the police officer’s record in a citizen’s home or do they have to turn their cameras off once they enter a person’s house? If the recordings are kept by the police can the police alter the footage, and how long can the police keep the footage?

Bibliography

New era of policing: Will the benefits of body-worn cameras outweigh the privacy issues?(2014, November 21). Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/new-era-of-policing-will-the-benefits-of-body-worn-cameras-outweigh-the-privacy-issues/article21698547/

Police Body-Mounted Cameras: With Right Policies in Place, a Win For All. (2013, October 9). Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/police-body-mounted-cameras-right-policies-place-win-all

Self-awareness to being watched and socially-desirable behavior: A field experiment on the effect of body-worn cameras on police use-of-force. (2013, January 1). Retrieved from http://www.policefoundation.org/content/body-worn-camera

The Big Picture: How Do Police Body Cameras Work? (2014, August 25). Retrieved from http://www.thewire.com/national/2014/08/how-do-police-body-camera-work/378940/

Why police should wear body cameras — and why they shouldn’t. (2015, January 13). Retrieved from http://www.vox.com/2014/9/17/6113045/police-worn-body-cameras-explained

Are the ‘new’ body cameras really going to solve police accountability? Or lead to more problems?

We must first begin with understanding cameras without even mentioning police officers. There are cameras in grocery stores, big malls, parking lots, streets, offices, and many other public facilities, but what it really comes down to is; does that really stop crime from happening? No! Crime is still there, people will still steal from malls, or rob cars in parking lots. Having a camera there will not change the outcome of an individual’s actus reas when their mind has already made up the decision to commit a crime. The only thing that really changes is a criminal’s way to go about the criminal activity without getting caught. Now I’m not saying having those cameras there are useless; they do provide safety, and protection for the public, and the police. The point here is that they do not stop crime from happening; it is still there regardless. Really the only difference is now one can visibly see someone stealing or committing a criminal act. The whole point of having police officers is to create a safe community. When we look at measuring safety we look at the dimensions of victim harm, and the rate of crime. To me personally if an individual’s mens rea is there, then really a camera won’t change the outcome of the act. A perfect example to really show what I am trying to get at is the ‘Stanford Prison Experiment’. This experiment had normal healthy young males who prior did not have any record of deviance, be either a guard or a prison inmate at random. Now clearly, the prisoners knew there were cameras, or at least were being watched, while the guards also knew there were cameras. That did not stop them from treating inmates inhumanly. What this means is even ‘real’ police officers will still be corrupt if that is truly where their mindset is. They will just be more careful. We can even hypothesis that new types of corruption can be created from this, like for example ‘accidently’ deleting recordings or a camera ‘breaking’ and so forth. The blue wall can also come into effect here, where there can be chances of officers covering for other officers, even with the no deleting recordings policy. Corruption exists in many ways, and those who try to get away with deception, usually find a way around the system. It has happened in the past, and can very well do so in the future.

This video shows exactly how corruption can still exist even with body cameras

The publics uproar about police accountability is really only based on three main cases, Ian Tomlinson, Robert Dziekanski, and Ferguson; two of which did not even occur in Canada. Yes, I do agree justice should be done, but that does not mean every Police officer in Canada should have their privacy invaded. If we zoom into the Dziekanski case, maybe better cameras should have been in the airport instead of blaming the whole police community of the acts of a few correction officers. The rotten apples should not spoil the rest of the barrel by making them undergo a big economical system change. Would anyone like to be on camera throughout his or her whole shift, especially for a 12-hour shift (common hours for police officers). Would a secretary at work like being filmed they’re whole shift, or would teachers like having their classroom being recorded all day. I would assume no they would not, but yet workplace, and classroom incidents are also common situations where body figures misuse their authority in Canada (Moulden et al, 2010).

Coming back to cameras, companies like Axon, and VieVu have already started making products for this new police equipment. According to the TASER’s website the ‘Axon’ body camera is designed to record easily in a wide-angle view while being light weight, and show clear footage (TASER, 2014). The police officer would wear it on their uniform and anytime they would be interaction with a civilian they would simply slide the camera lens off. Once the interaction was over they would slide the lens cover back on. They conclude with showing that the rate of complaints have fallen 87.5%. What I would like the reader to note here is that the study they show here is in only one agency of Rialto, CA which it directly says is a small town. Why have they not shown a study of a big town? We must be critical and note why there are no other agency studies posted on their website? Is it because the other ones do not show improvement? Or did they simply only take the agency that showed to have the most improvement compared to any other agency. By doing this it automatically show improvement because they are ‘marketing’; this means that they are only showing what they want ‘buyers’ to see so they can make money. Another thing to note is the graphs they show fail to go in-depth about the range they are counting for complaints, and use of force. To the naked reader we have no idea what these numbers really mean. The cost for an average body camera is typically around $400. This does not even include the chargers, docks and other gadgets that also would need to be bought. Once the camera has recorded material on it, it can then be charged into the dock where it automatically uploads to evidence.com. The material here can be accessed by police administrative bodies, and usually held for up to 180 days directed by TASER, unless it is in need for evidence. Recordings are able to be watched by the officers, but are not able to be deleted, or modified once they are uploaded. Additionally I would like to inform the reader that from all my research I was not able to find any information about new facilities that would have to open to store the recordings, or new workers that would have to be employed to manage the recordings. Articles just talk about the body cameras; people need to realize that money is not only going to be put into the cameras, but there will be money needed in other areas as well.

Tiny Police Cameras Oakland

Body cameras having been first implemented in the U.S and have made their way to Canada now. Justice officials say that if the public has cameras, so should the police. The body cameras allow the officers to safely protect the public, while ensuring they’re own safety as well. Questions about officer reliability, and accountability are being answered after watching footage. Many civilians may not use force due to knowing it will all be filmed, and vice versa. The safety of both parties here can be potentially benefited. Police officers do not have to deal with as many lawsuits that also cost tax payer’s money. Also sometimes witnesses, or victims decide to later withdraw from a case, which can cause the case to have no evidence. With the cameras there will always be evidence for the court; this can be either good or bad depending on the victims life. Police may in fact come out on top after all the criticism that they have received throughout the years. Now the public will understand that the police officer could have been justified in they’re actions. In situations of police misconduct, the police would have full accountability in cases like these because even the courts would not be able to save them. The courts would never have to feel obliged to take a police officers report as the only evidence anymore, because now they would have footage.

costs

Justice officials in New York claim that body cameras are economically beneficial in saving the city millions of dollars in lawsuits every year, which would in the end pay for all of the cameras themselves (Lopez, 2015). The world of technology is always evolving, and with the dash cams just not being able to cut it anymore; body cameras may prove to be effective on their own. In Goldsmith’s article, he establishes that phone cameras, and the media are apart of the police organization now. Police having they’re own body cameras have evolved from that. Goldsmith would say that the police too should have they’re own cameras so that they can prove what maybe the public ‘filmer’ failed to record. Most civilians only start to record once an event begins to get ‘interesting’. The police officers on the other hand would get the full footage, from beginning to end. He would claim that now accountability would go to whichever party is at true fault.

This is a beneficial way for police officers to prove they’re innocence.

Here is an video that allows viewers to see how Body Cameras are used and can be effective, and beneficial.

I would just like to conclude with one last thing, we live in a ‘democracy’. This means everyone should get the opportunity to see all of the pros and cons, and then decide if we as a community want and need the cameras, since it is affecting everyone’s privacy. If citizens, and police officers all think body cameras are necessary in today’s age, then by all means that is what should happen. I want to leave the reader thinking with one incident I once heard a retired police officer say, “A young female was about to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge…. I sat with her for two hours, and continued talking until she finally decided that life had a lot more for her…this saved her life”. I personally think if the police officer was wearing a camera the female would not have opened up as she did, and possibly the police officer may have not been able to say everything he had to as well. Not every situation should be on film, there’s times when having a camera can be invasive, and create more drama then it really needs to be. As the reader, really ask yourself is this what you would like to see in the next couple of years?

References:

AXON. (2013, January 1). City of Rialto Case Study. Retrieved February 8, 2015. http://info.taser.com/rs/taser/images/CA_Rialto_PD_Case_Study.pdf

Lopez, G. (2015, January 13). Why police should wear body cameras — and why they shouldn’t. Retrieved February 08, 2015. http://www.vox.com/2014/9/17/6113045/police-worn-body-cameras-explained

Moulden, H. M., Firestone, P., Kingston, D. A., & Wexler, A. F. (2010). A Description of Sexual Offending Committed by Canadian Teachers. Journal Of Child Sexual Abuse19(4), 403-418.

Stroud, Matt. “The Big Problem With Police Body Cameras.” Bloomberg. 15 Jan. 2015. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-01-15/police-body-camera-policies-wont-work-if-cops-dont-turn-cameras-on&gt;.

With the emergence of smart phones and social media, most people now have the capacity to record and share any part of their daily lives with a larger and attentive audience. A ramification of this is the “new visibility” that the police are now subject to (Goldsmith, 2010), and the implications of accountability that stem from it. The body camera is a compelling and seemingly effective piece of technology that drastically changes how we view accountability measures, albeit still new and unproven to an extent.

AXON body camera. Photo source: http://www.michigantaser.com/LE/le_products.htm

One device, currently at the forefront of the race, is the TASER AXON camera system. Evidence.com lists five steps in using the system for agencies that are interested in adopting it – collect, transfer, manage, retrieve, and share. Officers are able to record interactions via the body camera, which can be clipped onto their uniform, in any file format, then transfer and manage the security-protected files, later retrieve them with ease, and grant access to select others off of the secure cloud storage-like network. The TASER AXON Body Camera has a retail value of $399, but there are cameras that go for less and those that go for more.

Several police agencies across the United States and Canada have taken to testing the waters of utilizing body cameras for policing purposes, perhaps as a reaction to occurrences of police brutality. A recent example would be the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the events following, including outcries for police accountability by citizens. The RCMP is one organization that has researched body worn video devices for a half-decade and pilot tested them in New Brunswick in late 2013, stating that they seek to “[enhance] transparency as well as police and public safety,” and that is exactly what is offered by the devices from an accountability perspective.

As cited in Goldsmith (2010, p. 922), Mann (2006) expresses that true transparency is achieved when an activity is recorded “by a participant in the activity,” rather than an outside observer with a smartphone camera, for instance. Body worn cameras also have other perceived advantages, in addition to heightened transparency. PERF, or The Police Executive Research Forum, is an organization based in Washington, DC that seeks to promote police professionalism. PERF has, through consultations with many police officials, explored the conveniences of body cameras as a catalyst for accountability in police agencies (Miller et all, 2014). They have gathered that relations between members of the public and the police are enhanced, as officers are able to better “resolve questions following an encounter” (p. 5). They also affirm that the cameras impede problems from developing early on, as professionalism is reinforced at both an individual level, through officer performance evaluation by video review, and at a larger level, with easier pinpointing of “structural problems within the department” (p. 6). With the identification of these problems, they are able to revisit and change protocols, for example (p. 8). Jennings et. all suggest that officers in general are supportive of the movement for body cameras, and feel that the cameras alone can improve citizen and officer behavior, as well as the behavior of their fellow officers (2014).


In departing from a descriptive tone, I would like to address the controversy surrounding body cameras from my own perspective. First, as it is a relatively new phenomenon, there might be technological issues with the devices themselves at the outset (will the point of view be narrow enough for significant interactions to occur out of visibility?), but these will be sorted out with the implementation and further expansion of body cameras as a standard, and by way of competing brands, as the video may indicate.

I’d also like to address the idea that body cameras will interfere with the ability of officers to use discretion in daily policing activities. This might be applicable, for instance, where an officer could let an individual off with a warning for a trivial offense. I do not think discretion would be a power that would be severely limited as a consequence of body cameras, as the recordings would not be meticulously reviewed. This would just not be cost-efficient. Rather, the footage would be utilized for either evidential or developmental, training purposes, as Goldsmith implies (2010, p. 926). Hypothetically though, if the footage was to be watched on a day-to-day basis, and the officer was compelled to enforce the law completely thoroughly regardless of how unnecessarily harsh it would be, this would still not in any conceivable way removed discretion from the picture altogether. Rather, this where it would become apparent what laws should be re-written, reformed, or rescinded. It would put pressure on those in charge to “trigger political and administrative responses” (Goldsmith, 2010, p. 927).

Lastly, as with any other occupation in the public sphere in today’s world, I do not think police officers should not expect absolute privacy. They especially should not cite this as a reason against body cameras, as they have specific duties, such as upholding the law despite whatever circumstances arise, that the average citizen does not. That being said, as Jennings (2014) proposes, police officers, in general, favor of the use of body cameras.

When it comes to the issue of body cameras, it’s either competent but facultative officers, or competent officers bound by the restrictions that come with undisturbed accountability. Personally, I’d take the latter.

References

Goldsmith, A. J. (2010). Policing’s new visibility. British journal of criminology.
How it Works. (2015). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from https://www.evidence.com/articles /how-it-works
Jennings, W. G., Fridell, L. A., & Lynch, M. D. (2014). Cops and cameras: Officer perceptions of the use of body-worn cameras in law enforcement. Journal of Criminal Justice, 42(6), 549-556.
Miller, Lindsay, Jessica Toliver, and Police Executive Research Forum. (2014). Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
RCMP to pilot body worn video in New Brunswick. (2013, November 14). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/news-nouvelles/2013/11-14-bwv-cvc-eng.htm

Body Cameras: Policing the Police

Posted: February 13, 2015 by SalH in Uncategorized

badge

As the advances in technology have increased over the last couple of years, video recordings and high resolution pictures are now readily made through handheld devices such as your mobile. With these technical advances the public is now able to record, take pictures, and even instantly upload pictures and videos to social media websites. This new era of video recordings from your phone have given rise to questions regarding police accountability and police interactions with the public. The public now have the ability to record and take pictures of the police while they are on duty and can upload them to millions of viewers. As a result this may lead to public uproar if an officer is caught on tape while in the midst of misconduct. However, these advances are not only available to the public; what if the police recorded their own interactions and records of these were kept and made available when questions of accountability arise.

Given the rise of new technology we see the introduction and usage of body cameras. Body cameras worn by police officers would help eliminate and shed light on topics of police accountability and police deviance while on duty. These cameras, if worn, would be attached to a uniform and will record interactions police have with the public. The emergence of body cameras have increased as the technological era has provided new ways for videotaping. The police are now seen in videos that are not coming from mainstream channels, but from Twitter, YouTube and other social media websites (Goldsmith, 2010). Since the police no longer have control of what is seen by the public, their view is being tarnished and careers possibly jeopardized; liberal senators argue that police should wear cameras as it would enhance the transparency among officers and citizens from accusations and misconduct (Freeze, 2010). Another factor that allows us to consider body cameras were the events concerning the Missouri police in Ferguson, Missouri. Many would ask had the officer been wearing a body camera, would we have seen that event differently. Citizens are reacting, and are possibly afraid of what can occur if evidence is not clear. Gatekeeper Systems Inc. president and chief executive officer Doug Dyment states, the incidents in Missouri “has created significant interest in body-worn cameras for police officers” (Mills, 2014).

Currently the leading brand supplying body cameras is Taser, with their ‘AXON body’ camera. These body cameras are hoping to reduce false accusations of officers and citizens, providing transparency and improving security relations with the public (Mills, 2014). Taser states their body camera is durable, light weight and has many mounting options. It also features a 130 degree lens that can capture much more than the competing brand (Taser, 2015). The camera feature that allows for a wider angle view would definitely be of use as you cannot always see what is happening in the surroundings, and this provides a better argument for officers or citizens in question.

axon

The body camera is easy to use and an officer simply clips it on to his uniform and goes on duty. The camera life lasts for 12 hours, conveniently one shift, and allows for pre-video recording. The body camera records even before the officer records – this feature can be very important for both officers and citizens, as the events leading to an incident are not usually caught on camera –this resulted in a reduction of complaints and lawsuits. Taser reports that studies have shown a decline in complaints by 80 percent (Taser, 2015). If reductions in complaints are dropping, then I believe the body camera may be working. However, we must test these ourselves within our own police forces before we can be completely certain.

After the officer presses record on his body camera the information and video footage is uploaded instantly to a “secure” website developed by Taser. This website allows for the agency to store, share and manage their data captured. I use quotations when I say secure as we have to be skeptical about where this information is going. Taser has created a website for the purposes of officer’s data being retained, but who else gets to see this? There are privacy concerns for all who are recorded. Legal procedural questions are also raised such as, who has access to the recordings? And what happens when an officer’s device ‘mysteriously’ glitches or gets turned off at an inopportune moment (Ortutay, 2014). Also, the website is not a government based website and can easily fall into the hands of online computer ‘experts’. How will we as citizens be certain our information and privacy is not tampered with? Although Taser claims it to be secure we should still be alert. All information collected by officers are uploaded on to a website called Evidence.com, and then can be accessed by officers on a 24/7 basis (Taser, 2015).

See: http://www.taser.com/products/digital-evidence-management/evidence

The Axon body and body cameras in general may likely be the next major installment in policing’s new visibility. A recent study of the Orlando Police Department offering the perceptions of police officers towards body cameras mostly generated positive results. Jennings, (2014) states that police officers appear to be open and willing of accepting and implementing body-worn cameras. Her study on the perceptions of officers is one of the first ever, and provides notable findings. The graph below illustrates the perceptions of wearing body cameras in the Orlando Police Department.

chart 1

(Jennings, Fridell, Lynch, 2014 Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.kwantlen.ca:2080/science/article/pii/S0047235214000853#)

This study provides us valuable information as it demonstrates that police officers are receptive of the idea, and are willing to use body cameras. Jennings et al. (2014) also, questions officers perceptions towards their own behaviour and the findings indicate they assume body cameras will improve other officer’s behaviour to perform “by the book”. They do not believe their own behaviour would change as a result of the body cameras. I find it interesting that officers readily assume others behaviour will vary but how they act will not. It may depend on the fact that they have nothing to hide while on duty or that they are indifferent to the usage of body cameras. Constable Scott Messier of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) provides commentary on his experience with the usage of body cameras in New Brunswick, and he determined that most citizens’ behaviour would either stay the same or suddenly change when they are informed they are being recorded. He also concluded that he became more aware of his interactions with the public and subconsciously improved his behaviour and professionalism (Does body worn video, 2014).

Although the body camera phenomenon seems to have been accepted in the view of police officers, some still do not believe it will make a difference in how officers or citizens act. Pamela Wallin, a Conservative senator, argues that you cannot change a person’s behaviour by simply “strapping cameras to people’s bodies” (Freeze, 2010). Staff Sergeant Scott Warren of the RCMP explains the usage of personal cameras attached to an officer would give rise to many allegations of breaches of privacy. He also states that while some officers may be accepting of such accountability measures, others will be inflexible and may even be offended (Freeze, 2010).

This figure illustrates perceptions towards behaviour change of officers while wearing the body camera.

chart 2

(Jennings, Fridell, Lynch, 2014 Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.kwantlen.ca:2080/science/article/pii/S0047235214000853#)

We can assume that the usage of body cameras may at first, change the way officers interact with the public, and may even use less force when dealing with them. Not only will the police behave ‘by the book’, citizens may also feel compelled to act in a certain manner. While this new innovation has its pros and cons, it is definitely one to consider as an everyday usage tool by police. I believe it will be a widely discussed topic, and much research will be put into the usage of cameras, and questions regarding privacy and accountability will be considered, however I also feel that as all things may be hyped at the beginning this phenomenon will also lose its spot light, and another form of technology will be introduced. Officers and citizens may change their behaviour knowing they are being recorded and it may reduce conflicts and false accusations, but as the usage of body cameras increases over the years we will become habituated to it and may even resume to prior actions.

References

Does body worn video help or hinder de-escalation? (2014). The Gazette. 76(1). Retrieved from http://www.rcmp-             grc.gc.ca/gazette/vol76no1/discussion-debat-eng.htm

Freeze, C. (2010, Feb 23). Policing. The Globe and Mail (1936-Current) Retrieved from                                       https://ezproxy.kwantlen.ca:2443/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1444698  006?accountid=35875

Goldsmith, A. J. (2010). Policing’s new visibility. British Journal of Criminology, 50(5), 914-934. doi:10.1093/bjc/azq033

Jennings, W.G., Fridell, A., Lynch, M. (2014). Cops and cameras: Officer perceptions of the use of body-worn cameras in law enforcement. Journal of Criminal Justice, 46(6), 549-556. doi:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2014.09.008

Mills, D. (2014, Oct 07). Picture perfect protection; body cameras, video systems becoming essential for law enforcement across north america. National Post Retrieved from https://ezproxy.kwantlen.ca:2443/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1609247  277?accountid=35875

Ortutay, B. (2014, Aug 22). In Ferguson fallout, calls grow for police to wear ‘body cameras’ – but with caveats. The Canadian Press.

Taser. (2015). Axon body on-officer video. Retrieved from http://www.taser.com/products/on-officer-video/axon-body-on-officer-video

Body Cameras; A New Extension of Police Visibility

Posted: February 12, 2015 by jaskarankahlon in Uncategorized

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The matter of police deviance and accountability has always been a leading interest for civil society organizations. There are three different visibilities and a new extension of police body cameras that influence the public perception of the police profession.

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Public Perception

The First entity is primary visibility. Primary visibility consists of uniformed patrol officers and frontline officers. Patrol officers are the most visible part of the judiciary system. They are the officers who interact and solve problems in the community. Any public perception at the primary visibility level is based on direct experience and first-person encounters with the police. Primary visibility is definitely a dominant role in the influence of public perception.

The second body is secondary visibility. Secondary visibility refers to images and videos that the mass media displays. The mass media includes newspapers, television programs, and social media. Secondary visibility is an important concept of deviance and accountability because it portrays activities that are beyond direct experience. Moreover, the mass media only focuses on the most horrific incidents in order to appeal their audience. This causes the public to believe that police deviance is on the rise. Secondary visibility is an unquestionable threat to society due to the increase of smart phones that are able to easily access social media apps.

The third visibility is the new phenomenon of smart phones. Smart phones are the new visibility because they can record in 1080p or even 4K. Furthermore, they are able to share and access videos around the world within seconds. The smart phones allow the public to record police brutality daily. Therefore, it is becoming more difficult for police agents to control the images and videos that are being presented to the public. Which in all ruins the perception of police accountability. Therefore, the police are introducing an extension to the new visibility phenomenon in order to insure accountability. The extension consists of police body cameras. The following blog will discuss the benefits, costs, and implications of body cameras from a police deviance and accountability standpoint.

Who Creates Police Body Cameras?

A current practice that the police are experimenting is with wearable cameras. The camera will be designed and accessible to be mounted onto an officer. The average device will record in 1080p with a 160-degree angle lens. The device will also have night vision, water-resistant, and damage resistant capabilities (Luba 2014). The two popular companies as of now with body cameras are Axon and Vievu.

Axon is a camera created by Taser. The Axon is designed to improve transparency between law enforcement agencies and their communities. Taser has two cameras out on the market; Axon Body and Axon Flex. Officers can mount the Axon on their eyewear, ball cap, collar, helmet, body or the dash of a cruiser (taser.com). Also with Axon, the agency can choose what they do with the data. The agencies are able to download the files into a data storage system. Taser also created a website called evidence.com, which allows agencies to secure secret files. Taser Axon makes it easy to store, retrieve and share digital evidence from one secure location. The cameras have an internal memory of 8gb and 12 hours of battery life. Taser also implemented a one-year manufacturer’s warranty on their units. The Axon body is marketed at $399 and their new model; Axon Flex sells for $599. As of now, Taser provides over 100 countries and more than 16, 500 enforcement agencies using the Axon.

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Vievu is a limited liability corporation created in the U.S. Vievu claims that they are the worlds leading police body worn video camera (Vievu.com). The body camera is being used by over 4000 agencies and in 16 countries. Vievu has 2 cameras out on the market called the Vievu 2 and LE3. The cameras are designed with military grade anodized aluminum housing and waterproof features. One of the selling features of the device is being able to store real-time video to an iPhone or Android smart phone. From there on, can be transferred to a Drop Box or email. This allows the footage to be sent or received instant. Designed by Veripatrol software system, the footage can also be securely stored and catalogued with a FIPS 140-2 compliant digital signature process, to verify the video has not been altered (Vievu.com). Furthermore, if the camera is lost or stolen, Vievu’s Vidlock security software will prevent unauthorized access to video evidence (Vievu.com). The cameras consist of 16gb internal storage and can record up to 12 hours. Vievu also offers monthly plans starting at $25/m and reaching a high of $55/m. The following monthly plans consist of key features like 60gb of included cloud storage, secure video sharing capabilities and 3 year extended warranty. It seems like the products are being sold at an upfront cost of $199 but do need a monthly plan established with the product. Nevertheless, Vievu claims that Oakland Police have reduced use of force incidence by 73.8% in 5 years (Vievu.com).

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Why are we Implementing Police Body Cameras?

The device will insure if any circumstances of misconduct are reported, the officers have their own evidence to refer too. Cox explains “with today’s technology, police are being recorded by the public during many interactions. Police are routinely called to resolve difficult situations involving emotionally charged individuals. Body worn video would provide additional evidence to support the work of frontline officers” (Luba 2014). The new technology of wearable cameras will protect the public and the police. Moreover, police will begin to monitor their own activities and make sure they do not abuse their powers. Furthermore, hopefully the increased monitoring will filter out the bad apples that are ruining the image of the police. Experiments with the new wearable cameras are being tested at the RCMP training academy. Once all the trials have been completed, the use of this technology will be presented to senior management for a decision. As of now, senior management is interested but are worried about the privacy of their officers. In all, the heightened surveillance on the police is certainly a risk for exposing police brutality. It is posing a huge reputation threat by video and Internet technologies (goldsmith 2010). In the future, evidence suggests that senior management will implement wearable cameras.

Who Has Access To the Data?

At the end of the day, the video files that have been recorded will be uploaded to a secure server or cloud storage system (Lorinc 2014). The house bill will wall off footage during active investigations and provide subjects of the videos upon request after the investigation is complete (Kare 2015). General access to footage will not be allowed.

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When Does the Camera Turn On/Off?

 The camera is required to be running through all encounters with the public but can be turned off in a squad car. Also, situations where an informant’s identity is in danger, the camera will be turned off. Any situation where the camera is turned off, the police officer must have a valid reason to justify the action.

Publics View

 A positive aspect in the publics view is that it will help reduce police brutality. Police officers will think twice before acting out unlawfully. There would be a visual record of their actions, which will boost transparency by forcing police officers to be more self-aware about using force (Lorinc 2014). A negative concern of the cameras is the safety and privacy of vulnerable situations. For instance, police are regularly called to deal with domestic abuse. At these moments, there are emotionally charged individuals who are not at their best state of mind. The recording of their worst may not pass comfortably with certain individuals. From there on, if any charges are laid, the evidence will be showed in court, which in all will embarrass the victim having to re-watch the situation.

 Police View

 A positive aspect in the police agencies view is that the body cameras will level the digital playing field (Lorinc 2014). Police regularly find themselves being video taped during their duties. The footage will allow a close up recording of what transpires during clashes between cops and civilians (Lorinc 2014). A negative output of the cameras is the role of discretion. Discretion is the freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation. However, if the police are being recorded, they are most likely to follow everything by the book. Simple charges will not be let off with warnings. There will be in increase with tickets and charges, which will increases the volume of cases in court.

Implications Down the Road

 The main reason behind the addition of police body cameras is to increase accountability by police agencies. But an implication down the road is that the footage will be used more for evidence in court. The original standpoint of police accountability will be outweighed by evidence footage within courts. Adam Molnar, a Canadian criminologist who specializes law-enforcement technology, warns that body-worn cameras will become “an intelligence-collection device instead of a built-in mechanism to introduce transparency and accountability (Lorinc 2014).

My Opinion

I believe that the pursuit for police body cameras is a win/win situation for both the public and the police. There is an emerging issue with police deviance and police accountability. The videos continue to paint a negative picture of the federal and municipal organizations. For the police, the footage will provide additional evidence to support the work of frontline officers. And, for the People it will insure the police do not abuse their power of authority over the public. I strongly believe, five years from now, every police organization will have body cameras.

Bibliography

http://www.taser.com/products/on-officer-video/axon-flex-on-officer-video

http://www.vievu.com/vievu-products/hardware/

Lorinc (2014) “New Era of Policing: Will the Benefits of Body-Worn Cameras Outweigh the Privacy Issues?” The Globe and Mail.http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/new-era-of-policing-will-the-benefits-of-body-worn-cameras-outweigh-the-privacy-issues/article21698547/ (January 31, 2015).

Debate over access to body camera footage arrives at Capitol. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2015, fromhttp://www.kare11.com/story/news/politics/2015/01/29/debate-over-access-to-body-camera-footage-arrives-at-capitol/22543291/

Luba, F., 8, T. P. O., & 2014. (n.d.). Abbotsford company develops wearable video cameras for police and security officers. http://www.theprovince.com. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from http://www.theprovince.com/news/Abbotsford+company+develops+wearable+video+cameras+police+security+officers/10273938/story.html

Goldsmith, A. (2010). Policing’s New Visibility. British Journal Of Criminology, 50(5), 914-934. DOI: 10.1093.

What is a police body camera?
A body camera is basically a small device that is usually attached to the upper body of a police officer and they are mainly used to record their day-to-day police work.

What is the purpose of a body camera?
The central purpose of the body camera is the ability to hold police accountable for their actions and also protect cops who are falsely accused of wrongdoing. There are many cases that come into the Criminal Justice System where people are suing the cops for wrongdoing. This includes racial profiling, sexism, ageism and so on. There have been many cases where police officers have been accused of saying something inappropriate, touching someone inappropriately, or doing something inappropriate. In these cases the body cameras can really help in protecting the police from wrongful convictions.

The need for police officers to have body cameras:
With the growth of technology, the concept of ‘new visibility’ has given a rise. New visibility allows people to record/capture police doing their job or carrying out any misconduct. Popular mass media websites such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Vine have become very popular when it comes to sharing police misconduct. I recently came across a clip on my Facebook page where there is a private security officer using excessive force towards an individual at the SFU Formal. In this video, the story is very one sided as it displays how the person attending the party gets beat up by the security officer, however it fails to show why there was such excessive force used. It plainly portrays the private security officer as the offender. Similarly, there are many instances where the public record the public police officers on duty, and they usually start recording half way through the incident where the police officer start taking action. Most times videos like these end up on social media and make the police look like the “bad guys”. However, if the police wear body cameras they are able to produce solid evidence and will show the full context of what had occurred.

http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=467568 (video)

VPD’s take on wearing body cameras
A great first step that the Vancouver police department has taken was by wearing body cameras for dismantling of homeless camp. Police Chief Jim Chu speaks to CTV news about how “the body cameras will protect police officers against unfounded allegations of abuse, insisting grainy cellphone videos that find way onto YouTube rarely tell the whole story.” This discourages frivolous lawsuits against the police.
In addition, Police Chief Jim Chu also says that the police department thinks that “body-worn video will prevent people from acting in a difficult or violent manner,” moreover they believe that “people will behave better when they know they’re being recorded.” This is very true because most people like to portray their best behaviour if they know the video can be shared/distributed with others in society which can potentially ruin their self-image.

Results of wearing body cameras:
TASER International, an American developer that manufactures devices such as ectoshock guns and body cameras to many police departments around the world. On the website the company advertises that “The number tell the story, TASER products save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce litigation.” They state that the suspect injury reduces by 60% when less-lethal weapons are deployed.” This implies the use of body- cameras making a big difference.

Cost of wearing a body camera:
As mentioned by the Daily News, the cost of the body cameras is very expensive, each body camera is estimated to cost about $399-599 (TASER International). In addition, the infrastructure to support the cameras-the wiring, software and video archive system have an additional cost attached to it. Last, there is also a big storage expense attached with body cameras. The cost for managing the volumes of footage they keep for months or years can run into millions of dollars. This can cost the city/province a significant amount of money and can lead to cuts on other sectors of policing (raise in salary for police officers). The Daily News also reports that “San Diego’s five-year contract with Taser for 1,000 cameras would cost $267,000 for the devices — but another $3.6 million for storage contracts, software licenses, maintenance, warranties and related equipment.”
Implications and downfalls of wearing a body camera:
As shown by the video at the start of the blog, there are some big CONS that come with wearing a body camera. First, body cameras can violate people’s privacy including both police and the normal civilians. It can create a “Big Brother” type of environment where there is always a thought in the back of the police officers head that their each and every action is being watched. Officers will have twice every single time before they take action which could affect the response time majorly. Second, body cameras can malfunction and when they do the society can believe that the incident has been dubbed. This can cause questions of likability issues to rise up as body-cameras are a big investment. Last, adopting body cameras by police is a complex process. It is important to consider as to who has the right to access this footage, how long will the footage will be held in the system and is it going to be used for training purposes and anything along those lines.
Who is using Body Cameras?
As reported by The Globe and Mail “about 800 Calgary police officers will affix tiny video cameras to their vests and fan out on the city’s icy streets, where they will usher in a new and somewhat uncertain era that could be described as point-of-view law enforcement.” Likewise, “in a growing number of British and American cities, including London and New York, which both launched trials this year. Calgary is the first large Canadian police service to make the move, but several other cities, including Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax and Montreal, are looking at testing or adopting the equipment.”

Work Cited:
Lopez, G. (2015, January 13). Why police should wear body cameras – and why they shouldn’t. Retrieved February 11, 2015, from http://www.vox.com/2014/9/17/6113045/police-worn-body-cameras-explained
Vancouver police to wear body cameras for dismantling of homeless camp. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/vancouver-police-to-wear-body-cameras-for-dismantling-of-homeless-camp-1.2053804
New era of policing: Will the benefits of body-worn cameras outweigh the privacy issues? (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/new-era-of-policing-will-the-benefits-of-body-worn-cameras-outweigh-the-privacy-issues/article21698547/ http://www.wsj.com/articles/what-happens-when-police-officers-wear-body-cameras-1408320244
Police body cameras are cheap compared to cost of storing all that video. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from http://www.dailynews.com/government-and-politics/20150206/police-body-cameras-are-cheap-compared-to-cost-of-storing-all-that-video
AXON body on-officer video. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from http://www.taser.com/products/on-officer-video/axon-body-on-officer-video