Do police body cameras improve police behavior?
Police body cameras have a significant effect on a city or county's budget, but it also has a great effect on a police officer's behavior. Body-worn cameras show a significant difference in policing. Many people believe that while being watched, officers will behave better. According to studies done by The San Bernardino County, “When officers were wearing cameras on shifts, police use of force against suspects was 50 percent lower. Similarly, complaints against the police fell to almost zero in the 12 months after the cameras were introduced”(Sutherland). Research from the San Bernardino County shows how police body cameras can improve policing and will drop the amount of use of force incidents. Many departments are looking for a reduction in police misconduct and a decrease in complaints and charges against the suspect and cop. A Harvard criminal justice journalist states that there is, “Empirical support showing that OVCs [On-officer Video Cameras] can help departments achieve their goals will reduce the time needed for this technology to gain legitimacy. Our findings represent a preliminary step in that direction"("Do body cameras change"). Having body-worn cameras will help police departments find success in improving the behavior of their officers. It will help them reach a significant goal, as the journalist states above. Knowing from research done by many states already, the new technology has made a big difference on policing.
Will police body cameras increase police accountability?
Police body cameras is a possible solution for police misconduct. There have been many incidents where police officers were the cause of a civilian's' death. People are looking for ways to figure out all the details of why or how the citizen is killed by an officer. The Southern California branch states that "The power we give to police officers to use force, even to take human life, is extraordinary – and the public deserves to understand how that power is used, not to be told ‘just trust us." In most cases, violence caused by police officers are covered up or there is a lack of evidence and a trial doesn't happen. Body cameras help support cases by providing evidence in the domestic violence cases and more. According to Chief Ron Miller of the Topeka, “The footage shows first-hand the victim’s injuries, demeanor, and immediate reactions. Police, showing suspects in domestic violence cases the on-scene body camera footage has led to a guilty plea without going to trial.” Footage from the cameras helps show who is wrong or right. It gives proof of any misconduct coming from the suspect or victim. The body-worn cameras can capture everything the officer does and sees. The Chief of Police Jason Parker of Dalton states that “Unlike in-car cameras, body-worn cameras capture everything that happens as officers travel around the scene and interview multiple people. The body-worn cameras have been incredibly useful in accurately preserving information." Many police departments have stated that the body cameras are a positive and useful tool for them. It gives more accurate information for all cases and provides an unbiased point of view. The devices show everything that goes on between the officer and civilian throughout the incident. Although the footage from the cameras provides an unbiased support and more accurate information, the new technology comes into to conflict with privacy implications.
How will concerns with privacy policies of the new devices affect the future?
Thousands of officers at law enforcement agencies have started to wear body cameras to record the interactions they have with the public. The new technology is being put out there very fast. It is being implemented faster than departments are able to create policies for the use of the cameras. The growing use of these new devices raises privacy concerns. With the body cameras being equipped this quickly, many of the concerns that arise affects the future of the devices. Los Angeles daily news states that "Unlike dashboard cameras, body cameras follow the officer everywhere. The cameras, if they aren't turned off, can go with officers into a bathroom or locker room, or capture private conversations between partners. Footage can become evidence in a criminal case, or be used to discipline officers or exonerate them of false accusations." The cameras are rolling and worn at all times when on duty, therefore the cameras will capture anything and everything the officer does or sees. This actually helps with policing, since the officer knows they are being recorded. It also captures what a civilian does on a daily basis when an officer drives or walks past them. Equipping officers with these devices raises many issues over privacy. There are concerns of the cameras invading a person's privacy because the recordings in some states can be accessed by anyone. If there are clear policies out there for the departments, it may help with the privacy concerns. Recently the federal did a survey and according to the studies, "63 law enforcement agencies using body cameras said nearly a third of the agencies had no written policy on the devices." A lot of departments do not have any privacy policies released or written out. It's not known how many agencies are using body cameras, therefore it is harder to determine who needs to release a policy for the devices. Stanley, who is a supporter of the police body-worn cameras says, "Unfortunately, you’re seeing a lot of departments just sticking cameras on their officers without thinking through the policies very well." The non-selective release of footage from body cameras, if there is any, can have a negative effect on the victims of crime, therefore having policies written out can decrease complaints or issues with privacy. Also, police departments have started to use body cameras more and more except many do not have a clear and fully written policy. There have been police recommendations from legislators, law enforcement organizations, and civil liberty groups. However, most police departments either do not have a policy or have not released them. Overall, police departments are working on releasing privacy policies for the new devices and police body cameras have had a positive effect so far, as shown in many studies. The body-worn cameras are a useful piece of technology that is being implemented in many departments today. With these tiny cameras being equipped for officers, there will hopefully be a significant change on the policing.