How do Police Body Cameras Work?

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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How it works

Police body cameras are being used nation and even worldwide more and more. These tiny devices record anything from traffic stops to the most intense crime scenes. The footage is a valuable resource in the police department and can be used for so many beneficial purposes. Police body cameras should be worn by all police and they are a good an effective thing because, the footage can protect both the officer and citizen if anything bad happens and footage can teach new officers what to do in hard and real situations.

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Citizens expect police officers to do the right thing in intense situations. They expect them to be honest in all of the things they do to protect citizens and prevent any crime in the city. Yet, police officers expect citizens to cooperate with their orders and obey the law. Police cameras can give extra and plausible evidence that can protect both the citizens and the police. There are police officers out there who are not good or honest, and who put citizens in danger or wrongfully accuse them of crimes they did not commit. In January 2017, a Baltimore officer did just this. A group of officers were searching for drugs in a certain area and one of the officers plants drugs in an empty soda can, walks back out to the street, and goes back to pick up the can of planted drugs to claim they were found. Police body cameras have a feature that recorn 30 of footage right before the camera is activated. The camera caught the officer planting drugs, going out to the street and, “discovering” them again. He was suspended from his position and soon after charged with a misdemeanor. Thus protecting the citizen in who was accused of having drugs, from punishment in which they did not deserve. (Fenton)

In another instance a Chicago police officer was found guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of battery for shooting a 17 year old 16 times. A dash camera (another form of police camera) on a police vehicle shows the 17 year old boy with a knife, but walking away from the officers. It then shows one of the officers shooting the boy who then falls to the ground while still receiving shots from the officer. In court he was found guilty and prosecutors called each shot unjustified. (Keneally) The footage from this camera helped defend the victims case and made sure that any unjust action was resolved in court. Each of these stories proves that police cameras protect citizens from police who are dishonest or too violent, but what about the citizens? Do police need protection too? The answer is, “yes”!

An officer in Ohio was called to a scene where domestic violence was reported. In the house a man had stabbed his girlfriend and repeatedly yelled, “kill me!”, to the officers. The man kept stabbing his girlfriend and would not stop so the officer made the difficult choice to shoot the man, which ended up killing him. Thanks to the footage of the body camera, the shot was found justified and the officer was able to continue policing. (Body Cameras Win Converts Among Police Officers on the Beat) This footage protected the police in finding that the shot was, in fact, just. In all three of these stories the police camera footage keeps either the police or citizens from being wrongfully accused of a crime or action that could cause great negative effects.

In each of these stories the officers had to make lots of critical choices in extremely intense situations, whether they be good or bad. New officers need to know what to do in case they are ever in a dangerous or intense setting in which their choice could be destructive or beneficial to the situation. Footage from previous police encounters can show new officers what a good choice is and what to do when making those important decisions. Michael Chitwood is a sheriff in Florida who teaches his officers with police body camera footage. In an interview with Radio Lab in their podcast, “Shots Fired”, Chitwood shows one of the videos he uses to train new officers. It is a video taken from an officer’s body cam. He was called to a situation in where a man was traveling around the town with a knife trying to stab people and was also high on crack cocaine. The man, with a knife in his hands, is seen walking towards the cops. The cop calmly talks to the man saying, “Why are you acting so crazy?”. The man keeps getting closer and finally the cop pulls out a taser and says, “Taser, taser, taser!”, letting the other cops know that the pop they will hear is a taser and not a gun so they don’t get scared and fire their weapons. The man falls on his back with the knife still in his hands. The officer yells, “Put it down or you’re gonna get it again!”. He goes over to the man who has fallen and kicks the knife out of his hands and cuffs him. The officer tells the man, he is lucky he didn’t get shot, helps him up, and safely puts him in the police car. The video end and Michael chitwood explains the multiple key points that can be used to teach new officers what to do in a situation like this. (Abumrad) Videos like this shows officer how to use as little force as possible and how to keep the citizens from receiving little or no harm. The previous stories that have been told about police camera footage can also be used to show new officers what is smart to do and what is not. Some argue that so much footage can be hard to go through, but I believe that the tedious work it might take to make sure our police officers are going to be trained and will make the right choices, will be worth the time.

Police cameras can be so valuable in so many situations. I want the best for the police officers who serve this country and for the citizens who live in it. I want to know that our officers are being honest and just in their actions. I want to know that the citizens causing harm are rightfully accused. I want to know that police use right tactics and make smart choices learned from previous officers. Police body cameras ensure all of that. I feel that they are extremely beneficial and that all police officers in our nation should use police body cameras.

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How Do Police Body Cameras Work?. (2020, Apr 06). Retrieved from