Police Body Cameras: Weighing the Benefits, Costs, and Implications

Posted: February 12, 2015 by gurpalmann21 in Uncategorized

The issue of patrol officers wearing body cameras affixed to their uniforms is a delicate subject. The intention of the body camera is to record interactions between uniform officers and the general public. Police officers already face a great deal of pressure and scrutiny with their daily job. The added stress is a major issue as “body cameras can invade the privacy of many innocent citizens, continuous deployment would similarly impinge on police officers when they are sitting in a station house or patrol car shooting the breeze — getting to know each other as humans, discussing precinct politics, etc. We have some sympathy for police on this; continuous recording might feel as stressful and oppressive in those situations as it would for any employee subject to constant recording by their supervisor”. (Jay Stanley, ACLU Senior Policy Analyst October, 2013 page 2)Body Camera

Taser is one of the companies that provide body cameras to frontline officers. It is an ultra durable camera with 130-degree wide-angle lens, and easy deployment to record digital evidence. The officers can attach the cameras to their

  • Button shirt
  • Zipper Shirt
  • Utility Shirt
  • Uniform Shirt Pockets

The agency then decides what to do with the data. The intended purpose of the cameras is to provide police accountability and for investigative measures. This would help the public against police misconduct and in turn help the police against false accusations of abuse. The factors that have led to the emergence of the body camera phenomenon has to do with the violent shootings that have taken place in the United States. For instance, the shooing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Another example would be the fatal shooting of armed male in Muskogee.

http://globalnews.ca/video/1819669/body-camera-captures-moment-police-save-mans-life-from-burning-car

In this example of the link posted above, it shows the courageous efforts of two Florida sheriffs save a man from a burning car. The police departments are the ones who have control over the recorded data and access to them as well.

The public is the biggest supporters of body camera use on police officers. The BrickHouse Security Survey found that “more than 72% of respondents support body cameras, which holds up with other polls around the country”. (http://www.vox.com/2014/9/17/6113045/police-worn-body-cameras-explained). After the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the people of the community believe that had officer Wilson had a body camera on, the events of that fatal shooting could have been cleared up. Al Sharpton, a black civil rights leader, was critical of the Ferguson police department and wants police accountability in regards to Michael Brown’s death. Furthermore, the body camera issue is mostly a concern in the United States where there is more violence than here in Canada. In the U.S, body cameras are seen as a preventative measure and deescalating violent situations. In Canada, it is seen more as an investigative tool. Canadian agencies have less use of force instances than their United States counterpart. In my opinion, I believe that body cameras can be a good thing only if the right regulations and practices are used. Police officers are already stressed and working long shifts, and to have them under scrutiny all the time would be unfair. To have a system in place that would effectively work with the police officers and the citizens of the community, I believe that body cameras can be a great tool in the near future

References

Why police should wear body cameras – and why they shouldn’t. (2015, January 13). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.vox.com/2014/9/17/6113045/police-worn-body-cameras-explained

Police Body Mounted Cameras: With Right Policies in Place, a Win for All. (2013, October). Retrieved February 10, 2015. Jay Stanley, ACLU Senior Policy Analyst.

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Comments
  1. Mike Larsen says:

    You conclude with “ I believe that body cameras can be a good thing only if the right regulations and practices are used. Police officers are already stressed and working long shifts, and to have them under scrutiny all the time would be unfair.”

    Two questions:

    First, what are the right regulations, in your opinion? What kinds of policies and practices should govern the use of body cameras?

    Second, I note that the introduction of body cameras is taking place at a time when the expansion of surveillance and security powers is making the public more visible to the police than ever before. Does your concern about the implications of expanded scrutiny mean that you are also concerned about the expansion of police surveillance capabilities? I would welcome your opinion on this.