The Use Of Body Cameras on Police Officers

Posted: February 12, 2015 by jasb14 in Uncategorized

With the issues of accountability on the rise, the idea of a body camera is the interest of a possible solution. Potentially, they wish to attach a small device to every officer, which will record their interactions with the community. It holds individuals accountable for their actions and speaks about their integrity. Having body cameras attached to every police officer has been the topic of interest for many. Some people supported the idea and others criticized its purpose. In our everyday lives, when we encounter a scene that is of great interest to us, our first instinct may be to use our phone and share it with others. From our point of view, it may be humorous and fascinating but it can be a false encounter, considering it is only one side of the story. From a police officers point of view, a person who just happened to be walking by during a confrontation might only have witnessed half of what had originally happened. Body Cameras are a way for a police officer to highlight the whole story. It can benefit the community as well as the police officer, when it comes to wrongdoings. It “protects the public against police misconduct, and at the same time [helps] protect police against false accusations for abuse. (Stanley, 2013)

Many different cameras have been suggested for law enforcement uses, such as the Taser Axon Body. It is a convenient sized device that can easily be attached to the officers shirt, in comparison to the GoPro, which is much bigger in size. It is chest level and gives 130-degrees field of view. Due to the amount of recordings that can be stored, the camera quality is not HD. As for the battery life of this device, it has 12 hours of stand-by time, which is seen as highly positive trait. Every so often, the footage stored in the camera is automatically transferred to a secure cloud server. It has a special feature that determines if a video is being transferred in its original and complete form without any filters or editing. This ensures that no footage is being deleted to avoid responsibility for ones actions. It is a straight-forward and easy to use device, that begins the recording of an interaction with the pressing of one button. (Horaczek, 2014).

Having a body camera on an individual, forms this layer of pressure and intimidation that someone is always watching or will be watching. This can be characterized as a positive and negative trait, some people may work well under pressure and others may feel oppressed. This in turn may encourage the officer to turn the cameras off when they feel too much pressure. Moreover, speaking from an “accountability perspective, the ideal police for body-worm cameras would be for continuous recording throughout a police officer’s shift, eliminating any possibility that an officer could evade the recording of abuses committed on duty” (Stanley 2013). However, this is seen to invade the privacy of not just the police officer but also everyone that surrounds them. Activities such as eating, taking a break may be interrupted by the body cameras, which in turn invades privacy. There is also the issue of police supervisors using general conversations with other police officers about politics or minor violations against them.

In comparison, if the cameras do not record continuously, the police officers can use discretion as to when they wish to turn it on and off. This can be an accountability issue because it leaves room for tampering of the footage. A certain communication with an unknown individual on the street may turn into a dangerous confrontation, if in that case the camera had been off, it can affect the way the evidence is presented in court. In order to ensure the truth is being told, a balance must “ensure that officers can’t manipulate the video record, while also ensuring that officers are not subjected to a relentless regime of surveillance without any opportunity for shelter from constant monitoring” (Stanley, 2013).

As for the benefits of this technology, police officers will not be able to manipulate the law and use discretion negatively. This provides an opportunity to hold individuals accountable for their actions and also protecting officers who are falsely accused or misunderstood by the public. It also encourages officers to do their duty efficiently and lawfully as their actions are being recorded. The skeptics of the technology suggest that these body cameras can over step boundaries and violate the privacy of many. Furthermore, knowing an officer is equipped with a body camera, many individuals may be hesitant to talk to them. This could potentially affect their duties on a regular basis. Moreover, skeptics believe that not only is the police officers privacy being violated due to the cameras, but many individuals in public places may feel a loss of privacy due to the officers presence. An officer searching an individuals house suddenly has footage of the inside of their house. This may make the homeowners uncomfortable.

As for my opinion, I believe there are benefits and implications to everything that we use in our daily lives. It all depends on if the benefits of each out weigh the implications. The body cameras are used as accountability machines, they are meant to monitor the actions of the police officers in our communities. When an individual is given that uniform and all the obligations that come with it, they are trusted with all that they given, especially their actions. If a police officer, who is supposed to protect and serve the members of our communities, is responsible for any misconduct, they need to be held accountable and dealt with accordingly. I believe the idea of body cameras is for the protection of not just the public but also the officer themselves. It provides an opportunity to analyze a confrontation clearly and precisely, which may be necessary to ensure the legality of the matter.

In the next five years, I can see the widespread of cameras on police officers. Due to the wrong doing cases such as the Robert Dziekanski, and more recently the Michael Brown case in the United States, a clear understanding of the situation is important. After cases like that, a lot of pressure is put on police organizations which were responsible. This gets them a lot of negative publicity in the media which causes many people to lose trust in their community officers. In order to protect the organization and the individual police officers in cases of false accusations by the public, it is important to equip officers with these cameras.

Bibliography

 Body Cameras Want to Change Law Enforcement. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from http://www.americanphotomag.com/node/3130

Goldsmith, A. J. (2010). Policing’s New Visibility. Advance Access Publication.

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

Why police should wear body cameras — and why they shouldn’t. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from http://www.vox.com/2014/9/17/6113045/police-worn-body-cameras-explained

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Comments
  1. Mike Larsen says:

    You do a good job of weighing the costs and benefits of continuous vs. intermittent recording. Good work.

    Your concluding analysis is also clear and effective.

    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)?