The Importance of Wearing Body Cameras in Today´s Society

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In today’s society it seems as though no one is safe anymore. We have learned to fear cops rather than trust them due to the lack of real evidence proving that they are in the right. Within the last four years it seems as though minorities have become the reoccuring victim in which being pulled over could possibly result in ones death if they anger an officer.

What is and how does a Body Camera Benefit Society

Police body cameras are small cameras, often worn on an officer’s chest or head, with a microphone to capture sound and internal data storage to save footage for later review.

Police body cameras are in use around the world from Australia to Uruguay. [19][32] They were first tried in the United States in 2012 in Rialto, CA. [1][2][5] In 2015, in response to the number of high profile shootings of unarmed black men by police officers, President Obama pledged funding for a nationwide program to equip departments with body cameras. [19] Law enforcement agencies in 45 states and DC have received funding from the Department of Justice’s Body-Worn Camera Policy and Implementation Program, which spent over $58 million between 2015 and 2017. [6] 35 states have introduced specific legislation covering their use, [4] and a study prepared for the National Institute of Justice found that there are over 60 models of police body cameras available to purchase in the United States. [3]

Proponents of the police use of body cameras say that the cameras create transparency and accountability and reduce police – and anti-police – violence. They also say that body cameras provide evidence that proves or disproves police misconduct allegations; and that they are a good tool for police training and have strong support from the public. Opponents of the police use of body cameras say that the cameras negatively affect the physical and mental health of officers by overburdening them with equipment and placing them under the stress of constant video surveillance. They say that they increase the risk that sensitive or vulnerable victims and witnesses of crimes are exposed, and that their use damages community trust. They also say that they are too expensive and unreliable.

People act differently when they know they are being filmed – police body cameras can encourage good behavior by police officers and members of the public, leading to a decrease in violence, use of force incidents, and attacks on officers on duty. [7] A study in Rialto, CA, the first US city to trial police body cameras, found an over 50% reduction in the total number of use of force incidents by police officers when body cameras were worn; complaints against officers fell from 28 in the year prior to the study to 3 during the year of the trial. [7] In Las Vegas, NV, a trial found a 37% reduction in the number of police officers involved in at least one use of force incident when equipped with body-worn cameras. [8] In San Diego, CA, use of body cameras coincided with a 16.4% decrease in high-level use of force (Tasers, pepper spray, firearms) and 25.3% increase in low-level use of force (controlled holds and Taser warnings). [11] A pilot program in Edmonton, Canada, found that 35% of officers with body-worn cameras observed a decrease in instances of physical aggression by members of the public; [9] and a study on the Isle of Wight, UK, found a 36% decrease in assaults on police when officers were wearing cameras. [10]

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Police body cameras provide visual and audio evidence that can independently verify what happened in any given situation. In Texas, a police officer was fired and charged with murder after body-worn camera footage emerged which contradicted his initial statement in the shooting of an unarmed youth. [12] In Baltimore, MD, a police officer was suspended and two colleagues placed on leave after being caught on their body-worn cameras planting fake evidence at a crime scene. [14] In San Diego, CA, the use of body cameras provided the necessary evidence to exonerate police officers falsely accused of misconduct – the number of severe misconduct allegations deemed false increased 2.4%, and the number of officers exonerated for less severe allegations related to conduct, courtesy, procedure, and service increased 6.5%. [11] In Phoenix, AZ, allegations of police misconduct found to be true decreased 53.1% after the deployment of body cameras. [13]

Video recorded from police body cameras can be used to train new and existing officers in how to perform during difficult encounters with the public. The Miami Police Department has been using body cameras for training since 2012. Police Major Ian Moffitt says, ‘we can record a situation, a scenario in training, and then go back and look at it and show the student, the recruit, the officer what they did good, what they did bad, and [what they can] improve on.’ [17] A YouGov poll found that 92% of Americans support police body cameras with 55% willing to pay more in taxes to equip local police. [16] A Public Attitude Survey in London, UK, found that members of the public are generally in favor of the use of body-worn cameras with 92% agreeing that the cameras would ‘make officers more accountable,’ 90% agreeing that cameras ‘would ensure officers act within the law,’ and 87% agreeing that cameras would ‘reassure them the police will do the right thing.’ [15]

Although there are many benefits to having body cameras there is also flaws yet we may be able to overcome within the next couple of decades and be able to be able to communicate peacefully with one another. The following are flaws in this case that we should be able to work the kinks out of. Equipping police departments with body cameras is extremely expensive as forces have to budget not only for the camera but also for ancillary equipment, training, data storage facilities, extra staff to manage the video data, and maintenance costs. [26] To equip the Bakersfield Police Department, a force of 200 officers, would cost an estimated $440,000 in the first year, and $240,000 in subsequent years. [24] In Philadelphia, a four-year deal to equip a department of over 4,000 officers cost $12.5 million. [25] Police departments in Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, and Utah have suspended body-worn camera programs citing rising costs. [27][28][29][30] A trial in Edmonton, CA, found that body-worn cameras had an insufficient battery length for every day policing, especially in cold weather where battery life diminished more quickly. [9] A sheriff’s office in Virginia has stopped using body cameras due to the unreliability of their on-off buttons and poor integration with their IT systems.

Recording police-public encounters can lead to the public exposure of private medical conditions, victims of crimes such as rape or domestic abuse, witnesses who fear reprisal from criminals, and informants – especially in states which have laws allowing public access to the footage. [17][19][31][34] Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub notes that ‘every day we are exposing persons challenged by mental illness, autism, developmental disabilities, addiction, etc. We are creating and making public recordings of their illness and potentially creating life-long consequences.’ [22] Chief of Police Ken Miller of Greensboro, North Carolina says that if citizens ‘think that they are going to be recorded every time they talk to an officer, regardless of the context, it is going to damage openness and create barriers to important relationships.’ [23] A study in Edmonton, Canada, found that potential witnesses were reluctant to talk in the presence of a body-worn camera, even when the device was switched off. [9]

In conclusion we should still provide officers with body cameras in order to know what is happening at all times as well having an extra set of eyes that will be able to tell the truth without lying in a court of law as well as being let off with a suspension from the workforce.

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