A growing demand for heightened accountability among law enforcement agents has risen from the wake of widely publicized stories about the shooting death of an unarmed African American in Ferguson in August and the story of police tampering with recording equipment in their vehicles in Los Angeles in April 2014. Learn more about what body-worn cameras are, what proponents believe the value is and why they might not be able to capture everything when it comes to the whole story.
Some of this year’s top stories in law enforcement publications has been on the topic of police officers wearing body-worn cameras. Proponents argue that this would enable the full story to be more visible and allow for more objective discussion of events.
The exact number of agencies who have adopted body-worn cameras is not clear, but in one recent article published August 2014, expert David Kravets points to a California City which has done this and has experienced significant change as a result. The city of Rialto, population 100,000, required its police to wear body cameras in 2012. Since then, Kravets highlighted that:
“Officer worn cameras reduced the rate of use-of-force incidents by 59 percent. In other words, before the cameras, the rate of use of force incidents was 2.5 times higher than with cameras,” according to the department’s study. The study added that the use of force by officers decreased 60 percent (PDF) and citizen complaints were down 88 percent.”
Another benefit of body-worn cameras is that it alters the psychology of everyone at an event regardless of what kind of behavior may be taking place. When all parties are aware that their actions and words are being recorded, they simple behave differently.
What’s New in Body Worn Cameras?
When it comes to body worn cameras, there are as many different types and styles available as you can imagine. They can be as large as a shoulder bag or backpack or as small as a button worn on a shirt or jacket, so that regardless of how secret you need your body worn cameras to be, the technology is there to support it.
But not all body worn cameras are used just for secretly viewing or taping someone or something that’s currently happening. There is a type of fiber optic technology that can be used not for finding all kinds of things from bugs to clogs to broken parts. This camera is actually a flexible cable that comes complete with its own light source and it can fit into a hole as tiny as a quarter inch in diameter. Regardless if you need to see down a drain, inside an engine, behind a wall or through an old fashioned keyhole, this is the device for you.
Should Bag Camera
One of the most popular versions of a body worn camera is one that is secreted within a shoulder bag. Police departments and television stations commonly use this particular type of bag across the country. Body worn cameras also come available in convenient backpacks, which are so commonly used today by both kids and adults that no one thinks twice about them.
While opponents of the idea argue an invasion of privacy among other factors, the ACLU and many other organizations agree that if something as simple as body-worn cameras can save even one life, they are worth it.
Will Body-Worn Cameras Capture Everything?
Body-worn cameras will be able to capture a lot more than what testimony alone and written accounts may not, but they will also introduce new challenges. Equipment will have to be tamper-proof and law enforcement officials will have to be trained on utilizing it appropriately.
Body-worn cameras will not be able to remove the investigative aspect from the equation, however. Interviews and interrogations will still need to take place, and while your audio and video evidence during the situation will make a tremendous difference, don’t forget that some of the most important evidence in trial will be the recorded confessions and testimony that is provided by suspects and witnesses at the scene.
Make sure when you are looking at adopting body-worn cameras that you set your agency up for success by also adopting or upgrading your digital recording systems.