Police body cameras are popular with the public because they supposedly provide an account of what occurred in a disputed confrontation with the police. Advocates for their use argue that the cameras foster trust with the community the police officers serve. Body cameras provide a means by which one can independently verify what occurred. However, the utility of the cameras in reducing allegations of police misconduct is undetermined.
Effectiveness of the police body cameras is dependent on the police department in which they are used. Critics of their use argue that since police officers have control over the cameras they are wearing, they determine when to turn “on” or “off” their cameras. Therefore, they may not always record their confrontations. Furthermore, they argue that police departments have control over the footage after it has been recorded. Consequently, the perception that police departments may be secretive or protecting their police officers can lead to distrust if administrators do not make transparency a priority.
Body cameras alone do not reduce incidents of violence and therefore some argue that they are not effective in protecting police officers or civilians from being injured in a heated situation. Rather, training and retraining officers on transactional model communication and active listening is a better approach. Research has found that proper training and experience in simulated settings hones police officers’ ability to react in tense situations to diffuse the tensions and not resort to violence.
The biggest criticism for police body cameras is their cost. Cost of the camera is not limited to the camera itself, there are costs associated with storing the footage and maintenance of the cameras that can be prohibitive. Many large police departments need to allocate a substantial amount of their budget toward body cameras.
Civil rights defense attorneys at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser have successfully defended numerous police officers and law enforcement agencies throughout Pennsylvania from our office in West Chester, including those in the areas of Philadelphia and Chester County. To schedule a consultation or find out more, contact us online or call our office at 484-318-7106.