Body Cameras Mistrust and lack of accountability has caused the relationship between Law enforcement and the people to decay. People have turned to body cameras as a solution.

Glossary

  • Body Cameras: small cameras used by police officers that are worn on the body to record arrests and other interactions
  • Redaction: editing text for publication
  • Adversaries: one's rival in a conflict or dispute
  • Frisk: an officer passes their hands over someone in search for hidden weapons, drugs, or other items
  • Retention: the possession/control of something
  • Misconduct: unprofessional and improper behavior of a person
What has caused the strained relationship between law enforcement and the public?

Based on multiple polls and surveys, it can be concluded that the cause of aggravation between the police and the public is based on old issues rooted from racism. Scott Clement conducted a survey through the Washington Post that suggests over fifty percent of citizens believe that recent increase in shootings and protests are linked to broader problems, and that police shootings are not isolated incidents It has also been found that the cause of poor relations with local law enforcement can be pinned to misunderstanding between the two parties. For example, Police claim that citizens do not fully see the daily stresses of their work while the public claims that the police are unapproachable (Clement). Racism and old rooted issues are not the only problem to contend with. Along with being unapproachable, the public's confidence in the police has decreased. Noah Gordon from the Atlantic Media posed another poll asking about confidence levels the public holds on the police. It has been found that African Americans specifically have low confidence in the police to do their jobs right. Sixty five percent of African Americans say the police have gone too far, and less than half of African Americans believe the police are honest and have good worth ethics (Gordon). The confidence level of police on duty reflects the opinions and point of view of the public which differs depending on where and when an individual was raised.

How does the divide between law enforcement and the public affect daily life?

Day to day life on the streets is not as relaxed as it once was. Chicago has experienced its bloodiest year in twenty years. Victims of the crimes would rather get back at other gangs than go to the police who are seen as adversaries, not protectors. Violence has been increasing so greatly that many residents have thought about moving out of the city. It’s affecting the life of innocent civilians and the job of the police. The reason for this is the police is that young people feel that the police are there to undermine them which leaves them feeling humiliated (“Distrust of police aggravates violence in Chicago”). Young people are unable to connect with law enforcement and are instead taught to resent them. The views of the general public differ to the police. In fact, they are almost on opposite ends of the spectra. For example, it is noted that more than ninety percent of law enforcement feared for their own safety while on duty, and they are less likely to confront a suspect while on the job (Morrison). The people can not be expected to feel secure if the police are fearful themselves. A lack of understanding has put a wedge between these two groups. Solutions must be found before more violence and fear spreads rendering out officers unable to perform their job.

Will Body cameras aid or harm the relationship between police officers and the public?

The use of body cameras has sparked across the United states as an attempt to calm the colliding forces of the people and the police. Unable to trust the word of either party, using body cameras will leave both parties responsible for their actions. Officers who did not wear body cameras were reported to perform 9.8% more frisks and 6.9% more arrests (Kelsh). It is clear that there was not a significant change in arrests or police activity. However, it was noted that police were more likely to initiate interactions that officers who did not wear body cameras. People who are filmed behave better than people who are not. It is believed that police with body cameras made less arrests and frisks because they thought more carefully about procedures. They were more attentive out of fear for being reprimanded for doing the job incorrectly. Body Cameras can not only keep police accountable, but they also can help build trust relations between the people and the police. Last March in Cleveland, patrolman David Muniz opened fire on Theodore Johnson. After pleading Johnson to put his gun down, he refused and shot officer Muniz instead. The officer then had to use lethal force on Johnson (Morrison). Because of the use of body cameras, a jury decided that the officers were justified to use lethal force. The use of cameras will prevent any worsening distrust between the public and law enforcement that would otherwise occur without the physical evidence. There was no question of the patrolmen were making up a story. However, concerns of when it is appropriate to use body cameras is a growing concern across many cities.

When is it appropriate for police to use body cameras?

Body cameras should be recording only when absolutely necessary. Police vowed to keep the body cameras off at the inauguration and the women’s march in D.C, but are allowed to turn them on if they see criminal behavior occurring during those events. If the police are allowed to turn the cameras on and off, it might allow police to cut or edit the recording. However, having the cameras on all the time might violate privacy of victims who do not wish to have their interaction recorded. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) police officers should inform people that they are being recorded and cameras should be limited to uniformed officers,and they will be a triggering system for the cameras. Also, the ACLU suggested that retention periods should consist of weeks not years, and that the subject of the video has access to the recording (Stanley). This will insure the subjects privacy and law enforcement accountability. It is even found that police who wear body cameras are less likely to receive complaints. A study in Cambridge shows that a total of 1,539 complaints were filed in one year. When the officers were equipped with cameras the number dropped to 133 complaints ("Police with body cameras receive 93% fewer complaints"). This shows how the public has a positive response to law enforcement when they are kept accountable by the cameras. If trends continue it is likely body cameras will be used more often and the relationship between the people and law enforcement will continue to heal.

This video explains the use of secure, automatic video recording technology and how it is implented into body cameras for police use.

Should the recordings from the body cameras be disclosed to the public?

The recordings from the body camera should be shared with the consent of the subjects, and only if necessary for a case or trial. Videos that show no misconduct should not be publicized. The ACLU talks about videos that show misconduct is where oversight from the public is needed and usually overwrites privacy concerns (Stanley). This ensures that pointless videos that show no law violations can not be found anywhere online, yet still makes the cameras and their purposes useful. However, if people are worried about their privacy if a recording must be publicized then some form of redaction should be used to uphold as much of the subjects' privacy as possible. It is questioned why body worn footage is different than any other type of record gathered by the police. Attorney and senior staff at ACLU, Peter Bibring says that body cameras allow for a transparency that is needed to build public trust. He goes on to explain how recent investigations with police shootings were too secretive and a press conference admitting that the police officers acted appropriately isn’t enough to satisfy the people. Body cameras offer a transparent view to the story that not only keeps the police accountable for their actions but the people as well.

Works Cited

Created By
Emma Mueller
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