Body Cameras for Police Officers Body cameras provide visual evidence, but the cameras are in the early stages of development, and not all departments can afford, and manage everything that comes along with body cameras.

Glossary

  • Fatal: Deadly/ causing death
  • Misconduct: Unacceptable behavior
  • Violation: Breaking a rule or code of law
  • Body Camera: A camera worn by police officers to record what they see
  • Obstructed: To be in the way; Blocked
  • Footage: The file of a video

How much does it cost to supply officers with Body cameras, and store footage?

Vievu is one of the top brand body cameras which is easily hooked onto a shirt pocket

It would cost millions to supply every officer in every police department across the United States, and even more just to store their footage. President Obama administered the first body camera roll out just recently in 2014. Huffington Post reporter, Andy Campbell stated, "According to The U.S Department of Justice, who has handed out more than $40 million dollars to supply police departments with body cameras" (Campbell). Unfortunately body cameras are only a fraction of the expense. Footage is the real concern for most departments, because of how expensive it is. Rick Callahan, a reporter from The Big Story stated, “Palmer said his department's video storage and camera maintenance costs had been between $5,000 and $10,000 a year under its 30-day video storage policy. But the new law that took effect July 1 would have raised those costs to $50,000 to $100,000 for the first year, he said, by requiring videos to be stored more than six times longer” (Callahan). Most departments can afford the body cameras, but can not keep up with the major cost of storing footage simply due to how expensive the storage costs are. Another predicament with body cameras is who should be able to view the footage.

Can Anyone Have Access to the Footage?

As of right now it is heavily debated, and leaving everybody unsure if footage should be released to the public or not. Some states are for sharing footage, and some are against it which makes it a very split debate. Kansas is one of the states that is very against sharing footage with the public. “In Kansas, Earlier this year, SB 18 ― a bill penned by Democratic state Sen. David Haley that requires all officers to wear body cameras ― was torn apart by a Republican-controlled state Senate and regurgitated as a substitute bill that would make all of that footage exempt from state open records law”, according to Andy Campbell, a writer at The Huffington Post. Kansas is one of the states that has embraced body cameras, but they have created what is essentially a loophole that allows them to keep all of the footage they record private, so that nobody can see what happened. But on the other side of the argument, those who encourage sharing footage with the public have embraced it. “Public disclosure of body camera footage varies widely across the country. Seattle’s police department has posted redacted versions of its videos on a YouTube channel and has released footage of police-involved shootings almost immediately after they occurred” Liam Dillon stated, a writer for the La Times. He later states, "By contrast, state lawmakers in South Carolina decided last year to keep all police body camera videos under wraps" (Dillon). As of right now, the nation is split in its decision, as seen here these two police departments have very different views on their footage sharing. Another situation with body cameras is placement, because of how easily obstructed they are.

What is the Best Way to Wear Body Cameras?

Google Glasses is one of the main three ways to wear body cameras

As of right now, there’s is no best way to wear them to provide the best recording angle, but there are three ways of wearing them, all with different benefits and drawbacks, which are in the form of glasses, a helmet, and harnessed to the body. It is heavily debated as to where they should be worn, because how easily they are obstructed, and which angle provides the best point of view to record evidence. In a video created, and a study conducted by a law professor at the University of Carolina, An officer placed his body camera mounted to his chest, and recorded a video of himself, and another person dancing. He then conducted a survey to see what people assumed the danger he was in, and it came out to a 41% of people claiming he was in somewhat of a dangerous situation (Williams). They were all wrong, because they assumed he was engaged in a fight with a person, but the next clip showed a video of the officer, and other person dancing very close to each other. This is part of the reason why it is argued upon where body cameras should be placed, because the camera can be extremely deceptive, which is why people are researching for other alternatives. Another alternative, According to Sgt. Jim Lalley who stated, “It is much more effective to carry a camera attached to a tactical helmet, because it follows the movement of the head, and eyes" (Ferrarin). This is one of the alternatives, because it provides an eye level point of view, which shows exactly what the officer is seeing, and not what his chest is seeing. The helmet is a very efficient, and protective way to record, but the final alternative, which is glasses provides an exact point of view for the people who review the footage. According to Paul Marks a writer for New Scientist who stated, “CopTrax just tweaked its BWV camera software to work with Google Glass so it records what the officer actually sees, rather than a view from a chest, lapel or collar cam. On 13 September police in Byron, Georgia, made the first arrest on record -- a parole violator pulled over for speeding -- using CopTrax's Google Glass system, which streamed officer-viewpoint video of the arrest live back to police HQ" (Marks). It is a great alternative to the standard body camera, because it can stream the footage live back to the police department, as well as record footage. It also provides an exact eye level point of view which benefits police officers, and provides the best evidence for when needing to be reviewed. Also, CopTrax’s video manager Bill Switzer mentions his disapproval for the standard body camera. Switzer states, "A chest-mounted camera does not always give as good a perspective on a scene. It can be facing the wrong way when the officer is talking to someone," (Marks). He provides great evidence of the drawback of the traditional body camera, which is again the reason why there are many alternatives in the process of research right now. The next heavily debated topic for body cameras is the guideline, and procedures for when filming while on patrol.

What are the Guidelines for Officers when Filming?

There are no official rules yet since body cameras are in a relatively early stage, but each department has its own rules, and punishments for breaking the body camera recording rules, such as forgetting to activate the camera, or turning it off while on patrol. While there are no uniform recording laws for officers, each department sets their own rules for recording. The New York City police department drafted up a set of policies. According to the NYC Police Department, the basic rules are, “A number of situations for when an officer would be required to activate the camera: making an arrest, issuing a summons, stopping and frisking someone, conducting a chase, searching someone’s property, conducting a car stop, or interacting with an “emotionally disturbed person” (Goldstein). These is a set of activation rules for when to turn the camera on when engaging the public. Officers are also required to keep their camera on at all times, and to never turn it off while on patrol. Those officers who do receive punishments ranging from fired, to jail time. One Albuquerque police officer claimed that his body camera shut off right before fatally shooting someone, and turned it back on once the person was dead on the ground. According to Counter Current News, “Dear ended up being fired from the Albuquerque Police Department in December, but he has never been charged with any criminal act related to this shooting” (Counter Current News). There are consequences for breaking the rules of body cameras, and the officer received a very mild punishment for a major offense. Breaking rules, and brutality are one of the things that body cameras are hoping to monitor, and put a stop to, which is the final issue with body cameras.

Will Officers be Less Aggressive Since they are Being Monitored?

Police brutality in Egypt

Yes, officers do tend to be less aggressive, when they are being monitored, because there is visual proof of every single thing they do while on patrol. Officers tend to be more tame while being recorded, but when they are not, a New York City judge states, “In fact, the police do, on occasion, use offensive language—including racial slurs—or act with more force than necessary, the use of body-worn cameras will inevitably reduce such behavior” (White). A judge confirms that by forcing officers to wear body cameras, they will be more calm, and less aggressive in fear of being caught of police misconduct, or accused of excessive force while on camera. Furthermore, police departments that have not attempted body cameras yet are accumulating many excessive force cases against police officers. The city of Minneapolis claimed ”The Minneapolis Police Department is currently facing 30 lawsuits alleging excessive force against members of the department that date back a number of years” (Vinita). As seen here, the Minneapolis police department does not use body cameras yet, and have accumulated 30 claims of excessive force by local citizens. One study conducted by the Rialto, California police department has shown a significant drop in excessive force claims due to body cameras. In the study they equipped half of the department with cameras, and half without. From there they saw a decline in complaints against officers who wear body cameras. The department states, “Use of force by police officers dropped by 60 percent, from 61 to 25 instances, following the start of the body worn camera study” (White). Which furthers the point that officers that do wear body-cameras naturally use less force than officers who do, which leads to less, and less excessive force claims for that department.

Works Cited

  • Callahan, Rick. “Some police departments shelve body cameras.” The Big Story, 10 Sep, 2016, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/f19d7270535f4202b92de1872278330f/some-police-suspend-body-cameras-or-hold-citing-costs
  • Ferrarin, Elana. “Eye on body cameras.” Daily Herald, Daily Herald, 10 Sep, 2014, http://search.proquest.com/news/docview/1561148825/52D4D069E0E74096PQ/17?accountid=42214
  • Nair, Vinita. “Body camera programs raise new challenges.” CBS News, 3 May, 2015, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/police-body-camera-programs-raise-new-challenges/?scrlybrkr=7415d701
  • Marks, Paul. “Police, Camera, Action.” New Scientist. Vol. 220. Issue 2940, 26 Jan. 2013,https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22029404-400-body-worn-cameras-put-police-evidence-beyond-doubt/
  • Campbell, Andy. “Police Body Cameras Aren’t Helping You.” Huffington Post, 18 Oct. 2016,http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/police-body-cameras-arent-helping_us_57fd0cf7e4b0e655eab7b7f1?scrlybrkr=24d72065
  • Williams, Timothy. “Police Body Cameras: What do You See?” New York Times, Jacoby, Samuel, Cave, Damien, New York Times, 1 April, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/04/01/us/police-bodycam-video.html?_r=0
  • “Cop Unplugs Body Camera” Counter Current News, 11 Feb, 2015, http://countercurrentnews.com/2015/02/cops-camera-malfunctions-then-turns-back-on/
  • White, Michael. “Police Officer Body-Worn Cameras.” OJP Diagnostic Center, https://www.ojpdiagnosticcenter.org/sites/default/files/spotlight/download/Police%20Officer%20Body-Worn%20Cameras.pdf
  • Dillon, Liam. “Who Gets To See Police Body Cameras Footage?” Los Angeles Times, 20 Mar, 2016, LA Times, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-police-body-camera-bills-20160320-story.html?scrlybrkr=2c47a0d9
  • Goldstein, Joseph. “What Would New York Police Body Cameras Record” New York Times, 17 Oct, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/18/nyregion/nypd-body-camera-policy.html

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