Are Police Body Cameras Actually Useful? Some people want Police body cameras implemented across the country, but are they useful and beneficial?

Glossary

Server/Maintenance: A server is physical storage box that is used to store and secure data of which said data can be further accessed and managed while in this box. Data stored includes videos, files, and data. Server maintenance is the upkeep of storage servers so that data inside the server remains secure as well as the server running longer and without interruptions.

Misconduct/Force: In law enforcement technicality, force is the use of physical effort to gain compliance of an unwilling individual. Misconduct in law enforcement are actions committed by a police officer that are unacceptable or deemed improper behavior based off standards set forward by either a department or regulatory power being authority or government.

Grant/Department: A grant is governmental money given to an organization or establishment by choice from the government. A department in law enforcement is a governmental branch with the highest priority of the administration of the police force.

What is the reception of police body cameras?

Police body cameras have been received in mostly positive remarks from both communities and police departments around the country, but a group of critics have dedicated themselves to fighting the effectuation of police body cameras with their beliefs of the harm and abuse police body cameras can initiate. A critical reporter, Joseph Goldstein from The New York Times warns that, “Police body cameras may place personal privacy at risk as they may be used to surveil public citizens instead of police officers,” says Joseph Goldstein, a policing and criminal justice reporter for the New York Times. Although the body cameras may not be just recording the police officer, any footage that captures any misconduct committed by a police officer would still be used in the defense of the citizen in a court of law. This argument is used by critics of the police body camera program, and while there are critics to the program, a large statistic of people support the indoctrination of police worn body cameras. A survey conducted in the counties of Escambia and Palm Beach found that 90% of respondents thought that cameras would improve the behavior of police officers and that 70% stated that the cameras would promote better citizen behavior towards police officers, according to Emma Kennedy, a reporter for the Pensacola News Journal. Civilians overall find that the cameras are an improvement in the aspect of policing policy. The cameras are not only a recording device to monitor officer behavior, but are also a physiological benefit for citizens and police officers as they are a constant recording device that is always watching.

How are police body cameras beneficial for police officers?

Crime scene evidence is vital for concluding a case in the most accurate and unbiased way possible. Police body cameras are important in this procedure because they show the perspective from an officer involved in the situation. In fact, “Body cameras are an adequate reinforcement to all other sorts of evidence such as in court testimony by police officers, forensic evidence, witness accounts, etc. Body cameras working along with these other evidence findings will produce the most accurate non-biased court conclusion,” says Roseanna Sommers, a joint degree student (JD/PhD) in psychology and law and a student reporter for The Yale Law Journal. The addition of video footage would conclude to a smoother court case as it is additional evidence that captured events as they unfolded from the view of the police officer who is a participating individual in the altercation. Body cameras are useful in other means as well. Stated on their website, Axon body cameras, a commonly used camera by police departments, roughly weighs at 3.5 ounces. Police officers carry large amounts of gear and the addition of body cameras shoulded doubt on the program by departments for the fear that the cameras may be too heavy and actually intervene with officers and take their concerns away from patrolling. The facts that the cameras are 3.5 ounces, or about a quarter of a pound allows the officers to carry the camera with little regard to weight and allows for more room for carrying other gear items. After the concern with weight was relieved, the next subject that departments were looking into is what statistical results have these cameras lead to?

What are results in participating cities?

Around the country, body cameras have been implemented in some cities for around one or two years and information collected from the use of body cameras has been published and specifically in the city of San Diego, results have been positive. San Diego Union-Tribune contact reporter David Garrick informs “The report says misconduct allegations are down 43.1 percent when 2016 is compared to 2013, and the drop is even sharper when the department divides the allegations by severity. More serious allegations related to criminal behavior, discrimination, force and racial or ethnic slurs are down 47.4 percent, while allegations related to conduct, courtesy, procedure and service are down 40.4 percent.” These results have been taken from the city of the San Diego Police Department and seen from the data overall misconduct allegations have decreased dramatically. The decrease of allegations is a benefit for departments because of the decreased costs of taking cases to court. Similar results have been reported in other cities. In the city of Rialto, California, since the introduction of police body cameras in 2012, use-of-force incidents have dropped 60%, from around 65 incidents on average to about 25. Public complaints against officers has decreased 88% during the same period, according to Corky Siemaszko, a reporter for NBC News. Police departments around the country have viewed body cameras with uncertainty because of the fact that they are expensive and even to some, violating, but results from Rialto and similar cities show what results could look like or be similar to if they are indoctrinated. Police department’s concerns bring up the subject of how may be police body cameras be non-beneficial?

How Are Police Body Cameras Not Beneficial?

Body cameras have been seen as a positive asset by police departments around the nation, but there are critics of the program and the examples they argue are serious and should be taken into consideration in determining if body cameras are appropriate for a certain town or city. Once major concern is cost, “It’s no secret a lot of state budgets have been squeezed since the latest economic downturn, and this may make the price tag for implementing body camera systems unrealistic for some law enforcement agencies. The cameras offered by Tuttle’s company range in price from $399-$599 per unit,” states Will Erstad, a Content Marketing Specialist at Collegis Education. Depending on their size, departments usually buy body cameras in bulk in which there is usually a discount involved. Smaller departments would usually buy around ten cameras which even at a low number the price is still substantial. Storage, software, and maintenance added to the cost of the camera units themselves makes affordability for cameras low especially if departments cannot access federal grants or have not budgeted for them. Finances are not the only drawback of body cameras. In fact body cameras have drawn criticism for possibly being used to violate people’s privacy. In fact, fifteen states and the District of Columbia have introduced legislation that if passed would limit the public’s access to police body camera video evidence, according to Tanzina Vega, a national reporter for CNN News. Some members of the public demand access to footage that is recorded from police body cameras for the fear the if it is held back, the police may be hiding something. Privacy is also a concern for when the camera should and shouldn’t be recording such as the argument that cameras should not be recording in the officer’s own vehicles and civilian homes. With the benefits and concerns discussed for police body cameras, cities and government officials wait to see what else is discussed for these cameras.

What is currently being discussed for body cameras?

Around the nation, cities debate whether body cameras are actually beneficial or not, and decide on the choice of introducing them or scrapping the idea. In New York City, “city officials announced the decision to supply 5,000 cameras in the coming years,” according to Joseph Goldstein, reporter for The New York Times. New York City, one of the advocates for police body cameras has yet to issue any officers a camera years after competing cities have. The announcement for the issuing of cameras is of great news for those who support the police body cameras who feel that the NYPD should have them issued standardly to patrol officers. Current debates for civil liberties are being discussed by organizations who feel that body cameras should be implemented with the right policies. ACLU reporter Jay Stanley states “Overall, we think they can be a win-win—but only if they are deployed within a framework of strong policies to ensure they protect the public without becoming yet another system for routine surveillance of the public.” The ACLU is an advocate for civil liberties, and have been critical in the argument for the addition of body cameras. They along with other organizations discuss policies about police body cameras that may interfere with privacy rights and the discussion of abuse of these cameras to turn into recording tools against the public. The discussion of civil liberties on the subject of police body cameras is still a well spoken topic of both supporters and critics of the program.

Deputy Chief Eric Breshears of the Oakland Police Department describes the usefulness of police worn body cameras in the department and further describes analytics and department policy regarding their service of body cameras.

Sommers, Roseanna. "Will Putting Cameras on Police Reduce Polarization?" The Yale Law Journal - Home. The Yale Law Journal, Mar. 2016. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.

Goldstein, Joseph. Not One New York City Police Officer Has A Body Camera. The New York Times Company, 4. Oct 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/04/nyregion/despite-national-trend-new-york-police-are-slow-to-adopt-body-cameras.html. Accessed 25 Jan 2017.

Kennedy, Emma. Community Sees Police Body Cameras As A Benefit. Pensacola News Journal, 28 Jan. 2017, http://www.pnj.com/story/news/2017/01/28/community-sees-police-body-cameras-benefit/97142690/ . Accessed 31 Jan 2017.

Craig, Ashley. Police Test Out Body Cameras: Body Camera Use Up In State. Charleston Newspapers, 23 Jan 2015, http://search.proquest.com/news/docview/1647758990/AB6FEB6267B245F6PQ/14?accountid=42214 . Accessed 28 Jan 2017.

Root, Tonya and Claire Byun. Local Police Departments Discuss Pros, Cons Of Body Cameras And Their Challenges. Sun News, The (Myrtle Beach, S.C.), 25 Apr. 2015, http://web.b.ebscohost.com/src_ic/detail/detail?vid=3&sid=430257b4-0d0a-40a2-95de-98d6d58d6700%40sessionmgr104&hid=115&bdata=#AN=2W61706684778&db=pwh. Accessed 30 Jan 2017.

Rossen, Jeff and Jovanna Billington. Police Body Cameras: Can You Always Believe What They Show?. Today, 16 May 2016, http://www.today.com/money/police-body-cameras-can-you-always-believe-what-they-show-t92581?scrlybrkr=43845ab7. Accessed 26 Jan 2017.

Stanley, Jay. Police Body-Mounted Cameras: With Right Policies In Place, A Win For All. American Civil Liberties Union, Mar. 2015, https://www.aclu.org/other/police-body-mounted-cameras-right-policies-place-win-all. Accessed 17 Feb 2017.

"Body-Worn Cameras: Analytics, Safety, And Policy." Youtube, uploaded by Microsoft In Government, 31 March 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEafZXVD36c&spfreload=10&scrlybrkr=ca01e951.

Siemaszko, Corky. Body Cameras Win Converts Among Police Officers On The Beat. NBC News, 8 May 2016, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/crime-courts/body-cameras-win-converts-among-police-officers-beat-n566311. Accessed 17 Feb. 2017.

Garrick, David. Report: SSPD Body Cameras Reducing Misconduct, Aggressive Use Of Force. The San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 Feb. 2017, http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sd-me-body-cameras-20170209-story.html. Accessed 17 Feb 2017.

Vega, Tanzina. Rights Groups: Police Use Of Body Cameras Raises Privacy Concerns. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., 15 May 2015, http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sd-me-body-cameras-20170209-story.html. Accessed 17 Feb 2017

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