Body Cameras on Law Enforcement Officers Who needs them ?

Posted: February 12, 2015 by travissingh in Uncategorized
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Police body cameras have numerous methods for operation – everything from the style of camera to the storage options. For example, TASER offers cameras that can be attached to a shirt, to belts, or to shirt pockets as well as a glasses style option, and an attachable camera for a conducted electrical weapon. Go Pros have also been used as a form recording option however they have storage limitations. For example, the Go Pros require the officer to have ample storage in the form of an SD Card to store the video, which is later, transferred to a central database, which must then be organized, demanding additional resources and funding. Companies like TASER have an option for video footage to be automatically uploaded onto www.evidence.com, which charges a nominal fee for unlimited storage.

Currently they are on for the entire duration of the officer’s shift. There are many police departments that are utilizing body-mounted cameras, with many planning on adopting in the near future. Calgary Police have been one of the newest Canadian departments to implement the use of cameras on the majority of its 800 members.

Body cameras are intended to make the police more accountable for their actions to the public; however this has also turned out as a benefit for the police as cameras help to ensure that the public is also held liable for false claims. Police, however, aren’t the only ones adopting cameras, many corrections departments in the United States are equipping their officers with cameras inside of living units.

Currently, the individual field officer has control over the recording process, being able to start and stop a recording (either at the beginning and end of the shift, or at the start and end of a call). The officer also has control over the SD card (depending on the model of camera worn) where the officer can claim that the SD card somehow went missing. Implementing a body camera system for an entire force costs an immense amount of money. The upfront cost includes the cost of each camera (app. $400 each) plus training for all officers and additional training for a resources officer that would manage the massive amount of data. The costs for a storage infrastructure with backup (RAID format) would be mind blowing. The department would need hundreds, if not thousands of terabytes to store footage for any reasonable amount of time. On top of the up front costs, there are ongoing costs for maintaining the infrastructure, having an officer(s) to continually organize through the data.

There are many companies that produce body mounted cameras. Large companies like TASER have been very successful in marketing their product, to smaller companies like WOLFCOM are producing this technology.

Body mounted cameras came about because of the increasing reports of police abusing their power – ranging from being unprofessional to brutality. One of the most effective catalysts in the push for more accountability and ultimately body-mounted cameras was the death of Robert Dziekański at YVR, where he was tased excessively and died as a result. There was public outcry in determining responsibility for the death. There have been many other situations in pushing for body cameras, all of which are very significant.

There are many groups, and movements calling for more officers wearing cameras, but the most notable of which being U.S. President Obama. Obama wants to equip 50,000 officers with cameras in three years, with a total cost of $263 million. http://www.fastcompany.com/3039230/president-obama-wants-to-put-body-cameras-on-50000-police-officers

“The White house has spent three months reviewing law enforcement practices” (Gayomali, 2014) and put together a package for many departments. This is the first time that the federal government has decided to fund county and state agencies for cameras. Surprisingly, not many Police Chiefs or Sheriffs are opposed to the concept of body cameras. Most of the skepticism comes from frontline officers who may not be able to conduct their daily duties the way that they did previously. Some officers may have been behaving in a manner that would not reflect well on a department in order do their job, and they will have to change their behavior because there will be recordings of their behavior. As Goldsmith said, the video alone is not enough to create change, but is only a catalyst for it. When something negative happens, the officers and organization are put into the spotlight and are then forced to make a change because of the proof available to everyone.

Personally, I am for body cameras; as it will for the large part, make the public accountable to the police and the police accountable to the public.

Bibliography

Gayomali, C. (2014, Dec 01). FastCompany. Retrieved Feb 10, 2015, from PRESIDENT OBAMA WANTS TO PUT BODY CAMERAS ON 50,000 POLICE OFFICERS : http://www.fastcompany.com/3039230/president-obama-wants-to-put-body-cameras-on-50000-police-officers

Jayme Doll, M. S. (2014, Nov 05). Do Calgary police face recognition software, body-worn cameras violate your privacy? Retrieved Feb 09, 2015, from Global News: http://globalnews.ca/news/1655076/calgary-police-use-of-new-technologies-being-probed/

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Comments
  1. Mike Larsen says:

    You offer a good overview of the technology and the costs associated with it.

    When discussing the various proponents of body cameras, you note that “ Surprisingly, not many Police Chiefs or Sheriffs are opposed to the concept of body cameras”. I would welcome your thoughts on why this might be. Why might managers support the technology while line officers are skeptical about it? I think that this relates to the broader politics of police accountability, and to some of the trends in accountability addressed by Punch (2009) and Dean, Bell and Lauchs (2010). What do you think?