Police Body Cameras Friend or Foe

Written by: Prof. Colins
Updated: Dec 29, 2022
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This link is available on all electronic devices, including landlines and mobile phones, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, enabling residents to communicate at all times. The growing use of technology, such as mobile phones, has affected many elements of American society, including the police force. Modern technological breakthroughs have made tools available to aid law enforcement agencies in dealing with urgent circumstances. This technology might have proved helpful in the Darren Wilson and Michael Brown case. Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and murdered by police officer Darren Wilson.

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Should police personnel use body cameras? “Should law enforcement personnel wear body cameras?” asks the question. Officer Wilson claimed Brown assaulted him, while witnesses reported Brown surrendered before being shot. Despite protesters’ pleas, the city said it did not have a dashcam video of the event. When a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson for the murder in November 2014 (“Police Body Cameras: Should Law Enforcement Officers Wear Body Cameras?”), many nights of rioting and looting occurred in Ferguson. If dashboard or body cameras had been employed, the outrage that this case sparked might have been prevented. Despite their advantages, body cameras are often criticized, with studies indicating that they have “no discernible influence on police use of force or civilian complaints against officers” (Doleac). Body cameras have the potential to become an essential tool for police enforcement, but only if clear restrictions and standards are put in place. Police body cams should be part of a more extensive program to increase police transparency and public trust.

One significant advantage of using body cameras on police personnel is improved accountability for both officers and suspects. Body camera footage may prove an occurrence and help to quiet public outcry. The cameras “may make police operations more visible, hold officers and individuals responsible for their behavior, and minimize police-civilian friction,” according to a “rare example of consensus” among local councils, civil rights organizations, and police chiefs (Mantel). Despite the convenience of mobile phones nowadays, formal documentation remains necessary. People are increasingly using their cell phones to capture crime scenes in a quick and filthy manner.

Because of the proliferation of mobile phones and other portable recording devices, many people are taping police confrontations with the general public. Regardless of the efficacy of these bystander films, law enforcement organizations should take responsibility by forcing all officers to wear body cameras. Unlike spectator recordings, which sometimes lack context, these officer-created movies may provide clarity on even the most baffling events and incentivize officers to always function appropriately (Nunes).

Body cams, according to supporters, would deter police officers from breaking the rules and protect them from spurious lawsuits. The accused may gain from the deployment of police body cams. Body camera video may sometimes prove an accused person’s innocence. Police agencies around the country are experiencing a crisis of trust. Numerous instances in which police officers appear to have unjustifiably hurt or murdered people have been captured on cell phone video by witnesses, causing outrage across the country and leaving us to wonder what other atrocities our cameras may have missed (Doleac). The use of body cameras may increase transparency and public trust in police organizations.

Some individuals fear the widespread use of body cameras would violate their privacy. Opponents of body cameras have expressed worries about the privacy of the accused, onlookers, and even the cops themselves. According to “Police Body Cameras: Should Law Enforcement Personnel Wear Body Cameras?” when police contacts occur in private dwellings, “others have remarked that body cameras have the potential to infringe the privacy of the persons being seen.” Legislators and the general public are worried that using body camera recordings without established restrictions may result in privacy and surveillance concerns (Ripley and Williams). Victims of sexual assault or domestic abuse and persons with disorders such as autism or addiction may be put at risk if public interactions are filmed. Critics argue that publicizing the case would increase suspicion and discourage witnesses from coming forward. Many of these issues, though, are manageable with the proper standards in place.

Police body cams may be beneficial in resolving accountability and privacy issues if protected adequately by rules. Before cameras may be used effectively, regulations and training programs for police officers must be devised (White). Concerns about the utilization of recorded video and the timing of camera activation and deactivation have been raised. As a result, numerous police agencies are creating their procedures. For example, the Los Angeles Police Department has installed 7,000 cameras and enacted a policy requiring their usage after talks with the police union (Dillon and Mather). The Parker, Colorado, police department contacted the ACLU for advice on a new policy. The rules regulating the sharing of film, the activation of police body cameras, and victim rights are all clearly laid forth (Neuhauser). Ferguson, Missouri, the prominent city where Michael Brown was shot and killed, compiled a reasonable list of comprehensive demands, including federal legislation to end racial profiling as well as local measures ensuring accountability for rogue police officers, protections for journalists and community members to observe police activities, and restrictions on the acquisition of military equipment. The Ferguson community has proposed the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA), which would require data collection and public reporting on the consequences of police profiling. This would offer the transparency that body cams promise but seldom provide (Buttar).

Former President Barack Obama devised a $263 million program to aid with the purchase of cameras (“Police body cameras: Will they help?”). Furthermore, “state legislators have attempted and failed to enact a half-dozen crucial pieces of legislation to handle a variety of concerns, such as when police switch on and off body cameras and whether the public may see the footage” (Dillon). The figure shows one example of this. Despite the efforts of some local and state police agencies, there is currently no federal statute mandating the use of body cameras.

Police body cams may benefit agencies and the people they serve when used as part of a system that prioritizes accountability. When body cameras record their interactions with the public, both the accused and the police officers’ support may increase, and public relations may be strengthened. According to Washington Post columnist Radley Balko, having cameras is inadequate. “We must ensure that police agencies implement rules requiring officers to use the cameras, enforce those rules by disciplining officers who don’t, and ensure that officers, the agencies that employ them, and prosecutors take care to preserve footage, even if the footage reflects poorly on officers,” according to “Police Body Cams: Will They Help?”

A stringently managed program with standards, proper monitoring, and openness is required to deploy police body cams effectively. The use of police body cameras as part of a larger strategy has the potential to boost public trust and officer accountability.

Works Cited

  1. Doleac, Jennifer L. “Do Body-Worn Cameras Improve Police Behavior?” Brookings, The Brookings Institution, 25 Oct. 2017, www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2017/10/25/do-body-worn-cameras-improve-police-behavior/.
  2. Buttar, Shahid. “Body Cameras Will Not Stop Police Brutality.” Police Brutality, edited by Michael Ruth, Greenhaven Press, 2016. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints In Context, http://link.galegroup.com.ezrcc.vccs.edu:2048/apps/doc/EJ3010156269/OVIC?
  3. Mantel, Barbara. “High-Tech Policing.” CQ Researcher, 21 Apr. 2017, pp. 337-60, library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2017042100.
  4. Nunes, Iesha S. “Hands up, Don’t Shoot: Police Misconduct and the Need for Body Cameras.” UF Law Scholarship Repository, Florida Law Review, 2016, https://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/flr/vol67/iss5/6/.
  5. Dillon, Liam, and Kate Mather. “Rules for Body Cameras Are Left to Local Police Departments as Lawmakers Struggle to Pass Statewide Regulations.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 13 Jan. 2017, www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-police-body-cameras-no-laws-20170113-story.html.
  6. Neuhauser, Alan. “Police Have Body Cameras, but Few Rules.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report LP, 23 Nov. 2017, www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2017-11-23/policies-police-body-cameras.
  7. White, Michael D. “Police Officer Body-Worn Cameras: Assessing the Evidence.” National Institute of Corrections, The United States Department of Justice, 28 Nov. 2017, https://nicic.gov/police-officer-body-worn-cameras-assessing-evidence.
  8. Ripley, Amanda, and Timothy Williams. “Body Cameras Have Little Effect on Police Behavior, Study Says.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Oct. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/10/20/us/police-body-camera-study.html.
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Police Body Cameras Friend or Foe. (2020, Apr 23). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/police-body-cameras-friend-or-foe/