Police Body Cameras: An Ongoing Argument for the Good of our Community.

Posted: February 12, 2015 by nlaii in Uncategorized

           There has been much controversy about whether or not Canadian police officers should be equipped with body cameras. There are a lot of positives and negatives to having such devices recording everyday interactions of our police officers and civilians. This idea of a “new visibility era” introduces the idea that since everyone has access to mobile devices that any sort of interaction may be recorded at any time whereas not so long ago no one had mobile devices with recording features; making the police officers visible at all times.

           One big company that produces police body cameras is Taser. This company has produced the body camera called the Axon body which has claimed to be a very durable on-officer camera that is both a balance of simplicity and performance. One of these Axon Cameras retails at $399.00 according to their website. The website also displays many videos on how to use their product as well as other models. This camera has recording capabilities even in low lighting as well as with the 130° lens it provides a greater view compared to their competitors.
Axon Body

Check out more information about the Axon Body below:

Axon Body Cameras

           An article in the Globe and Mail by John Lorinc addresses the fact that there will be more transparency by having police officers wear these cameras. It also forces the police to be more self-aware about using force.

Globe and Mail – New era of Policing

NYPD               Although the use of body cameras seems like a good idea it could be very costly. With implementing these body cameras it may cause unnecessary stress on the police officers wearing the cameras. (Stanley, Jay; ACLU Senior Policy Analyst, 2013) It also takes away from the privacy of officers and civilians since the recordings will capture everything, even people at their most vulnerable states. In the Globe and Mail article it states that there is little to no evidence that demonstrates that body-worn cameras improve the interactions between police and civilian. With no empirical evidence why are we jumping the gun on such a large change to our law enforcement? Different places in the world require different methods of crime deterrence, just because something works in a certain country does not mean that it’ll be beneficial to our country. I believe that there should be extensive studies on the use of body cameras, the public’s reaction while keeping in mind cost, and probability of success  before implementing such practice.

           There are a number of forces that are currently using body cameras in the United States, Canada and in the United Kingdom, but it is clearly still in question about whether or not it will change police-civilian interactions. After the death of Eric Garner, U.S. President Barack Obama is committing to pledge $75 million US for the implementation of 50,000 body cameras for police departments. (Stastna, Kazi; CBC News, n.d.) According to this article the intended purpose of the implementation of this article is that it will provide a greater chance of justice. Peter Bibring of the American Civil Liberties Union argues that:

Video might not resolve every dispute, it might not guarantee indictments or discipline in every case where they’re deserved — but the chances of justice without it seem much less.

– Peter Bibring, American Civil Liberties Union

Here is the link to the full article:

Peter Bibring’s Article

 

           Michael D. White argues that since wearing body cameras will encourage by-the-book behavior of the officer this results that officers will less likely to solve things informally. Whether this is a good thing or bad thing cannot be determined in this article.

Police Robot

           Police officers are to use discretion when resolving issues, if these cameras are implemented than there will be less use of informal procedures and this will essentially cause a net-widening effect. Net- widening is the idea that offenders are subject to more intrusive sanctions than before. (Roach, n.d.) By limiting police officers to use “by-the-book” behaviour will not only back up our criminal justice system but force the use of resolutions that may not be tailored to the outcomes of crime. Since all behaviours should be the same ultimately, robotic even we are causing frustrations and tensions in our law enforcement officers as they merely act as robots with no room for empathy. Using informal resolutions allow for second chances when see fit. I fear that instead of being a good tool for officers and civilians, there will be a huge imbalance between maintaining a level of privacy and the thirst for justice that could result in huge divide in our law enforcement agencies.

 

References:

Stastna, K. (2014, December 5). Body cameras: Can they reduce confrontations with police Retrieved February 11, 2015, from

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/body-cameras-can-they-reduce-confrontations-with-                police-1.2861881

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

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/

Should Officers Be Permitted to View Body Camera Footage Before Writing Their Reports (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from

https://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform-immigrants-rights-technology-and-                     liberty-free-speech/should-officers-be-per

Stanley, J. (2013). Police Body- Mounted Cameras: With Right Policies in Place, a Win For All.

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Comments
  1. Mike Larsen says:

    This is an interesting and effective post.

    You write that “ Different places in the world require different methods of crime deterrence, just because something works in a certain country does not mean that it’ll be beneficial to our country.” This is a valid and important point. However, it is also important to remember that policing involves a range of practices and objectives, and cannot be limited to ‘crime deterrence’. Nor can police accountability be summarized as ‘crime deterrence’ directed at policing. With regards to body cameras, one objective may be to create a deterrent effect through visible surveillance. Another objective may be to facilitate ‘quality control’, while still another objective may be to provide a post-hoc evidentiary resource.

    Your comments regarding the potential implications of body cameras are effective. The suggestion that surveillance could lead to a ‘by the book’ bureaucratic law enforcement mentality is important. Note that a great deal of police discretion is supported by (and codified in) legal statutes, so there is no worry that cameras will completely eliminate discretion. There is, however, a concern that they might make it easier for managers to push for quotas at the expense of discretion. Consider, for example, a departmental prerogative to push for increased use of ‘stop and search’ powers (as we saw in the NYPD case this past week) – could officers resist such a policy if their interactions were recorded through body cameras?