The Impact of Police Body Cameras Body cameras are a new technology that are being implemented in police forces all across the United States.

Glossary of Important Vocabulary

Authentication: Proving something to be true.

Enforcement: The act of making someone or something follow a law or rule.

Expenditure: The action of spending money or the total amount of money spent.

Fugitive: A person that is running away from the law, or a police officer directly.

Implementation: The action of putting something into effect.

Initiative: The ability to take an opportunity before other people do.

Legislative: The branch of government that makes and passes laws.

What history would provoke the implementation of body cameras?

The misuse of the authority and force of police officers have directly led to the implementation of body cameras. In the past years, there have been an increasing amount of cases where police officers have shot (and sometimes killed) suspects, whether they were criminals or not. According to the article, “San Diego Police Must Rebuild Public Trust ASAP,” in San Diego, California, there were two cases in which police officers were deployed to handle the situation and killed the fugitives, whose names are not released. One shooting happened in April 2015, and another happened in October 2015 In both scenes, the police officers on the case were veterans, equipped with body cameras that were turned off, and killed non violent African Americans. As a response, the public, by popular demand, expressed that there should be improvements in police training regulations that better teach them how to handle a situation. More shootings in San Diego have happened in 2015, but these two mentioned were the most well known in the state. Furthermore, police shootings that are more known nationwide influenced many state governments to regulate how much force should be used by police. In the article, “Rules for body cameras are left to local police departments as lawmakers struggle to pass statewide regulations,” it is stated that "in the past, lawmakers who have introduced body-camera legislation said they were motivated to promote more law enforcement transparency and accountability through more expansive body-camera policies after the 2014 police shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Laquan McDonald in Chicago" (Dillon). These two cases of police shootings became nationwide inspiration for a lot of the public to start in protest for reformations in the police force. In almost cases of police shootings, the misuse of force by police officers has been met with increased public desire for the need for and better transparency of police body cameras.

How have body cameras, and their respective regulations, increased the transparency of information?

The addition and updated regulations of body cameras in the police force allows for the an unfiltered view of police interactions with their community. Unedited and unfiltered videos that are recorded by these body cameras can be used by the public for a better chance to defend themselves, if necessary. According to Haig Huynh, attorney of the Public Defender’s Office in Guam, “Everything comes down to a cop’s word versus a client’s word,” and, “the truth is important because the burden is always on the defense and these recordings could bring justice” (Aguon). Previous to the addition of body cameras, if an officer were to be taken to court with a suspect, then there would be little solid evidence to use as authentication that supports either the police officer or the suspect. The accessibility of videos to the public can greatly help in a defense against a police officer, if needed. The federal government, in time, has also responded to this situation. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was passed by congress nearly 5 decades ago, and it allows for the general public disclosure of certain information that would have been unreleased prior. The FOIA has not evolved with the evolving of technology, and most importantly, the body cameras that are being implemented. In the editorial, “Sunday Editorial: Without access, police body cameras won't live up to promise," it is said that recently, states such as North Carolina and Iowa have permitted the renewal of this act in order to update parameters that include the newer technologies. The videos of police interactions may also be uploaded to the internet for easy access. A disclosure of information about a police interaction allows for the goals of millennials to be achieved. Even as some states have renewed the FOIA, increased divisions on the regulations of police body cameras have risen.

How have divisions in the governing bodies of the United States affected the regulations of police body cameras?

The divisions among the implementation of police body cameras exist among the governing Democratic and Republican parties, and as a result, the decision about regulations is left up to the local police departments. The Californian government's legislative body has been historically dominated by the Democratic party, and internal divisions create problems when attempting to agree upon items attempting to be passed. These recent divisions among the dominating Democratic party of the Californian government have resulted in a half dozen major bills being denied (Dillon). These bills would have regulated how the police officers in the state control their body cameras, and how the public would then view the footage. Since no solid laws could have been passed to apply to the whole state, there is a problem that rises. Police departments of the state realize this problem among the governing body and decide to take the initiative to generate regulations among themselves. According to the article "Elgin cops on testing body cameras: 'We're embracing it,'" studies in Rialto, California have shown that the number of complaints as well as the misuse of force has gone down by 85% (Ferrarin). This trend has been monitored closely since the city police department has decided to establish local regulations that would apply to the city’s police officers. These regulations specifically require police officers to turn their cameras on, and to have them double checked as they are deployed on a scene. Of course, other cities in California have decided to do the same as Rialto did. Aside from the divisions among governments, it is important that local police departments budget for these body cameras.

How much would it cost to implement these police body cameras?

Even though body cameras are a relatively expensive and new technology, it is within the budget of many cities to get them. Not too many companies in the present day have decided to invest in making body cameras. The companies that have started developing their own body cameras, like Taser International, are setting their prices high in order to get a large profit. Taser International is a large company that traditionally associates with local police departments in order to increase their inventory of advanced police technology. According to the report “Implementing police body cameras remains work in progress,” on CBS News, Taser International charges $399 to $599 per camera, with an additional $15 to $89 more for extra storage capacities. Also, these prices for body cameras may seem like a costly amount, but it is only smart to keep in mind that the storage capacities in these devices are very large. Regardless of the price, many of the police departments that desire to purchase these body cameras have the budget to do so. City governments like West Chester, Pennsylvania have been budgeting well in the past years and have the funds required to purchase many body cameras for their police force. According to the article “West Chester budget includes police body cameras," West Chester’s total budget for 2016 was $43 million, and their total expenditure was $38 million, allowing for an increased budget in 2017 (Callahan). This increased budget for the city can be used for multiple things, to which, increasing the budget of their police force is one thing that West Chester will be doing. The whole addition of new technologies and programs to the West Chester police force is all a part of ‘testing the waters.’ Joel Herzog, a police chief in West Chester, explains that “We are exploring the implementation of body worn cameras to meet the community expectations for transparency and to serve as a critical training tool” (Callahan). Since body cameras are a newer kind of technology, not too many cities have implemented these cameras into their police force. The purchase of many new body cameras for police officers is an expensive but intelligent transaction. The early adoption of body cameras can serve as a basis for comprehensive studies that other cities to make a judgement about implementation. As cities gain access to these body cameras, it needs to come with responsibility as they have to be used correctly.

The image above shows Taser International's popular Axon 2 body camera.
What ways are there to ensure that body cameras are used effectively in the future?

As a solution to ensure that body cameras are used correctly, body camera companies have made their products easy to use, and police departments have come up with special ways to ensure correct use. Taser International, the most popular body camera producer, is aware that there might be a problem with the proper use of their body cameras. Taser International has implemented a large button in the center of the device that activates the camera which then records video and audio when it is pressed twice (“Implementing police body cameras remains work in progress”). This development is very useful to the police officers that have it equipped. While the police officers are in a stressful or intense situation, they can easily press the large button twice in order to start recording the scene. For future regulations, the police departments can possibly train their officers easily because of the simplicity of the device. However, a problem among police departments is that the activation of the camera is not done one hundred percent of the time. A popular local solution to this, that many police departments have thought of, is to rig it up with the officer’s tool belt. It is an idea to have a sort of setup with the tool belt that activates the body camera if either the gun or the taser is pulled from its socket (“San Diego Police Must Rebuild Public Trust ASAP). This addition is great to the future of efficient usage of the body cameras. This setup can greatly help in interactions because If the officer were to forget due to the intensity he/she may be in, the camera would already be activated. Even as possible problems with correct usage of the camera, they have been addressed properly by body camera companies and local police departments.

Works Cited

Aguon, Mindy. “GPD’s lack of body cams, other equipment raises concerns.” The Guam Daily Post, 12 Feb. 2017, https://www.postguam.com/news/local/gpd-s-lack-of-body-cams-other-equipment-raises-concerns/article_3d6fc662-ef7a-11e6-ac32-23caec7076 85.html. Accessed 14 Feb. 2017.

Callahan, Denise G. "West Chester budget includes police body cameras." Journal-News. Cox Media Group, n.d., http://www.journal-news.com/news/local/west-chester-budget-includes-police-body-cameras/uMRPsrSpAuwJ5T6MjrkeeN/. Accessed 20 Jan. 2017.

Dillon, Liam. "Rules for body cameras are left to local police departments as lawmakers struggle to pass statewide regulations." Los Angeles Times, 13 Jan. 2017, ht tp://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-police-body-cameras-no-laws-20170113-story.html?scrlybrkr=58784435. Accessed 26 Jan 2017.

Ferrarin, Elena. "Elgin cops on testing body cameras: 'We're embracing it.'" Daily Herald, 30 Sep. 2015. ProQuest, http://search.proquest.com/news/docview/17177625 21/C2D75884F35249EAPQ/6?accountid=42214. Accessed 26 Jan. 2017.

“Implementing police body cameras remains work in progress.” CBS News, report by Jeff Pegues, CBS Interactive Inc, 1 Feb. 2017, http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/imple menting-police-body-cameras-remains-work-in-progress/?scrlybrkr =972f90ce. Accessed 1 Feb. 2017.

“San Diego Police Must Rebuild Public Trust ASAP.” La Presna San Diego, 23 Oct. 2015, 2. ProQuest, http://search.proquest.com/news/docview/1738491022/5649BF9C70044 217PQ/3?accountid=42214. Accessed 31 Jan. 2017.

“Sunday Editorial: Without access, police body cameras won’t live up to promise.” Quad-City Times, 2 Jan. 2017, http://qctimes.com/news/opinion/editorial/sunday-editorial-without-access-police-body-cameras-won-t-live/article_e9e014c8-51a4-562 a-9f3e-cdd1cde422f0.html. Accessed 24 Jan. 2017.

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