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.

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Comments
  1. Mike Larsen says:

    You open with an overview of the history / forms of visibility. This is effective. However, I am baffled by the suggestion that “Secondary visibility is an unquestionable threat to society due to the increase of smart phones that are able to easily access social media apps.”. Could you clarify what you mean by this? As it stands, it sounds like you are suggesting that the sharing of images through a medium is a threat to society.

    In discussing policing’s new visibility, you write: “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.” I am curious – why / how does this ruin the perception of police accountability? Is it possible that this actually enhances our perception of police accountability (but negatively impacts our impression of policing) by making wrongdoing visible and public?

    I also wonder about the suggestion that body cameras will ‘level the playing field’. It is true that they would provide an alternative / supplementary account of police-public encounters, offsetting the sousveillance associated with policing’s new visibility. However, we should also remember that the police already engage in powerful and wide-ranging surveillance of the public (through CCTV, drones, dataveillance, dash cameras, covert recording, FLIR recording, etc.). Ultimately the body camera represents an important new addition to an already-extensive surveillance arsenal.