With the political climate more charged than ever, and an extreme divide between those who support or oppose police officers and question their conduct, one of the things that has been suggested to help improve this dissonance is to equip all police officers with body cameras.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to this technology.
The following are examples of the advantages to police forces and citizens provided by the use of body cameras:
Body cameras help to create a clearer picture of what transpired. It is much easier to demonstrate what occurred when there is footage of it – even if it is not perfect.
Whereas police reports require the imagination of the jury, video footage can be less subjective.
From a young age, we tend to behave better when we know that we are being watched. The use of a body camera not only influences citizens who know that they are being watched to behave well, but also influences the officers wearing them, as they know that their conduct will also be captured.
These videos additionally allow for officers to analyze their interactions and use that information to improve where necessary.
Weighing less than a quarter of a pound, wearing body cameras is not too intrusive for police officers that are used to already wearing a lot of bulky equipment. The smallest of these cameras is about the size of a lipstick and can be placed in a variety of locations on the officer.
Many departments who have already implemented body cameras are reporting positive results from them. There seems to be a reduction in complaints and a decrease in force.
With less disputes, this saves the department a lot of time and resources necessary to resolve any civil litigation.
The following are examples of the disadvantages to police forces and citizens provided by using body cameras:
With $399 – $599 price points per unit, a lot of law enforcement agencies are unable to afford these body camera systems. This is especially true for those departments that are already under tight budgets.
These body cameras raise the issue of our expectation of privacy, especially when dealing with some extremely sensitive situations. To keep such issues clear, police departments will need to work with advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to develop policies that ensure the public’s rights that are protected under the Fourth Amendment.
The chain of custody for evidence has always been important, to ensure that nothing has been changed or tampered with in any way. Adding video may require another investment into how to properly store these recordings. It may be difficult to prove the chain of custody in court.
Change is never easy, but for those who have been on the job for many years, it may become very difficult for officers to change how they conduct their performance. It is likely that the implementation of such body cameras will be met with a certain level of resistance.
Body cameras are not the only recording technology being employed to add accountability. In addition to cameras in the police cars themselves, new audio and video technology attached to police weapons is being developed and deployed, to explore situations involving the use of deadly force.
If you represent a police officer who has been involved in any type of dispute, it is important to fight for the justice that they deserve. At MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser we have experience in representing, counseling, and defending public officials and law enforcement in the Philadelphia, West Chester, and Chester County areas, and can help you as well. For more information, contact a civil rights defense attorney at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser by calling 484-318-7106 or submit an online inquiry.