Police Body Cameras: Yes or No?

Posted: February 12, 2015 by arjanjohal in Uncategorized

Police accountability has been a popular topic in news for many years, due to the latest events in Ferguson Missouri; more people want a change in police to civilian interactions. With police being “accused of brutality, racial profiling, and abuse of power” (TestTube, 2014), a new method of interactions with the public must be introduced. Body cameras are an excellent example of policing new visibility. While this new innovation has is pros and cons, it is definitely one to consider as an everyday usage tool by police.

As of now, the leading brand in supplying these body cameras to police departments is the company Taser. The people at Taser also supply police departments with the famous electroshock guns. Taser supplies these body cameras in many ways such as one were an officer would clip on to their uniform, or even a “lipstick” looking cameras which can be attached to an officer’s glasses (Axon Flex and Axon Body). The way these cameras work is that all of the officer’s interactions are downloaded onto a program. These videos can later be viewed by the officer through an app, or website (Russiatoday, 2013). These cameras have a battery lifespan of 12 hours (good for one shift), a wide angel lens to see more, night vision ability (since many altercations take place at night), waterproof for all weather use, durability (not a cheap camera), a lot of mounting options (hat, collar, glasses, etc), and much more (Axon body, 2015).

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The overall purpose of the body camera is to put an end to arguments involving “he said, she said” by showing evidence and proof of wrongdoing (by either party). They key object of this method of interaction is to show the truth. With recording of a situation, behavior may change for the better. In other words, knowing that you are being watched can alter how you think and act. Furthermore, after the introduction of these body cameras to Rialto Police Department in February 2012, complaints against officers had dropped by 88% whereas police use of force also decreased by 60% (Russiatoday, 2013).

So far I have discussed relatively positive reasons as to why police should be using body cameras, but there are still many factors in which cause alarm as to their use. For example, as CNBC’s Jane Wells discusses in her article (The big business of police body cameras, 2014), these cameras will only record when the officer clicks record. Although officers do not have the authority to delete these videos, concerns of when or even if the officer decides to record are factors to be noted. In addition, Wells 2014 notes that this feature of being able to turn off the cameras is definitely necessary especially when a witness does not wish to be recorded. Other concerns that may be applied to the glasses attached camera is what if the glasses fall off? It is very likely that during an altercation, an officer’s glasses can fall off due to running or being involved in a fight. Not only does this apply to the glasses version on the camera, but uniform attached cameras can also have the same issue. Another concern that Wells 2014 brings up is angel. While the glasses attached cameras give the viewer a direct view of what the officer sees, body cameras only see what is in front of it.

Although these are some very important points, they can definitely be fixed allowing body cameras to still be used as a valuable tool. As far as recording goes, the officer should not have the ability to turn off and on their camera. The camera should be recording every second of an interaction. As far as recording witnesses goes, those who wish not to be recorded can later be blurred. This also includes recording of innocent bystanders, people in private places, washrooms etc. After all, evidence is evidence and must not be tampered with. Another issue TestTube 2014 discusses is the going back to the videos in the future. What if officers decide to fish around for new crimes being committed in those videos? TestTube 2014 also brings up the question that if you are not convicted of a crime, will the police still be able to use the video of your arrest for their records? It is clear that privacy is a major issue that must be dealt with promptly before the full use of body cameras comes into affect.

Thinking ahead into the future with body cameras, the way police act and react may very much change. In my opinion, change will be for the better. I believe that with every officer being equipped with a body camera, police deviance will decrease and the right people would be held accountable in a wrongdoing situation. In addition, false accusations would decrease, racial profiling would also decrease, and police abuse of power will be eliminated. The whole Big Brother idea is definitely in effect here. Even though privacy is a major factor, it is only fair and right that officers be watched while on duty. Policing is like no other job. Police are to been seeing as doing their job professionally now more than ever. In my opinion, if you are paid to do a job where you are seen as someone with more power than the average person, you must use your power appropriately and also must be held accountable when proper conduct is not followed; and as the saying goes, “with great power, comes great responsibility”.

Overall, I do believe these issues will eventually be resolved, and body cameras will definitely become a major addition to policing’s new visibility. Just like any other pilot project, there will be many issues with the cameras both technical and human fault, but eventually body cameras will make policing much more easy, fast, and effective to all parties.

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References

AXON body. (2015). Retrieved 10 February 2015, from http://www.taser.com/products/on-officer-video/axon-body-on-officer-video

nytimes. (n.d.). Retrieved 10 February 2015, from graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2012/02/21business/taser/taser-popup.jpg

(2015). Retrieved 10 February 2015, from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/339107046914209802/

Russiatoday. (2013, December 4). Police body cameras in full effect. Police body cameras in full effect. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVLrhPKxi8o

TestTube. (2014, August 26). Can Body Cameras End Police Brutality? Can Body Cameras End Police Brutality? Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBmSew1xF2o

The big business of police body cameras. (n.d.). Retrieved 10 February 2015, from http://www.cnbc.com/id/102277770#.

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Comments
  1. Mike Larsen says:

    This is a well-written and interesting post.

    Question: It has been said by some that good policing relies upon the development and practice of trust between police officers and members of the community. Do you think that the introduction of body cameras will enhance trust (by demonstrating a commitment to accountability) or erode it (by introducing a surveillance mechanism into every interaction)?

    Another question: You propose that the introduction of body cameras would result in a reduction in racial profiling. This is an interesting idea, and I would welcome further explanation as to why the introduction of this technology might have this outcome.