Requiring the Usage of Body Cameras in Law Enforcement
Police worn body cameras is a current issue in America today, throughout the nation. Implementing police body cameras, with certain regulations and restrictions, would benefit all parties involved (who are doing the right thing). Suspects who are victims of police brutality would be provided with evidence to take to court, and innocent police officers who have been accused of police brutality can clear their name in court. Research shows that body cameras reduce the amount of excessive force, and it also reduces the amount of claims reporting police for the use of excessive force. Instituting the use of body cameras throughout the nation would provide accountability and affirmation for all parties involved._x000C_
Development in technology has allowed this generation to witness many wonderful and many horrific things. Things such as police officers saving the lives of children, but technology has also shown us some horrific videos of the police. Police officers have started to utilize this technology to disclose the truth of what had occured. There have been many cases of unlawful killings committed by police officers, where the evidence is solely based on the claims of the police officer and the suspect. Video recordings provides an indisputable account of events and provides a level of transparency for all parties involved. For law enforcement, these recordings and technological developments come in the form of body cameras. Of the fifty states in the United States of America, five states have passed laws requiring police officers to wear some form of body camera. Police officers should be required to wear body cameras to provide accountability for officers, and protect the officers from false accusations.
A police officer’s job is to ensure the safety of citizens, preserve law and order, and investigate crimes. In recent years, police have had growing accusations of not carrying out their duties in a professional and proper manner, and police brutality and cruelty claims has risen exponentially. By requiring police officers to wear body cameras people can verify the truth, without uncertainty and sayso, of what really happens when police are on duty. The public could review an event and dictate whether or not a transgression has occurred. This would also ensure that police officers carry out their job professionally and properly. It would no longer be the word of a law enforcement agent against a citizen, criminal, or deceased subject, who would not be able to tell their side of the story. Gregg Morton, the judge who helped determine whether body cameras are a management right or are they a state’s right, claimed that body cameras are “standards of service as increasing transparency, enhancing accountability, helping to define proper training, and enhancing professionalism. He noted that it will also identify criminal behavior and collect evidence” (Meck 2018).This documentation of evidence could prove whether or not a law enforcement officer was corrupt, and with that evidence law enforcement can weed out the bad apples and improve the overall quality of officers.
Police officers who use excessive force are the root cause of the more recent surge of hate towards law enforcement. Excessive force has a large gray area, and can boil down to a judgement call, solely on the police officer’s part. Exactly when force turns into excessive force depends on the complete circumstances surrounding the event in questions, including all of the factors. Some circumstances may be arguable on whether excessive force was implemented, but other situations may be obvious in whether the officer in question used excessive force. Despite this, the supreme court has ruled that force must stop once force is no longer required. Body worn cameras are able to help people and the court determine where the force became excessive if it ever did. Complaints against police for the use of force is not a new thing and is quite common. Ariel (2016) stated that “the Denver Police Department has shown that deploying BWCs” (body worn cameras) “in one police district caused a significant 35% lower odds for citizens’ complaints against the police use of force,” even though this study can not be an exact representation for the nation as a whole, because the culture in Denver is not the same as the rest of the nation’s culture. Nevertheless, this statistic allows people to grasp the importance and impact of body cameras.
Some citizens are concerned that the usage of police worn body cameras can potentially impeach their fourth amendment right. The argument has been made that if police body cameras are recording during the execution of a search warrant it could be seen as a violation of the suspects privacy, under the fourth amendment and against the U.S. Supreme Court case (in Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603(1999)). The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is an organization dedicated “…to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States” (aclu.org). Nielsen (2016) expounds on ACLU’s viewpoints on police body cameras,
“For example, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), while advocating the use of body cameras and acknowledging their use may be helpful in providing evidence of police encounters with the public, also made suggest ons to limit “the ability of the police to edit footage . . . limit the use of recordings, and establish good technological controls.” The theory for these controls is to ensure the body cameras remain a tool for monitoring the actions of the police and not a tool for monitoring the public.”
By putting certain rules and regulations in place, concerning the use of the footage obtained from police body cameras, people can ensure that their fourth amendment rights are not being violated. Newell (2017) shares that “…limits to public disclosure would protect individuals from interference and domination by states or private agents, as well as from the prying eyes of neighbors and the voyeuristic tendencies of strangers.”
There are police officers who are wary of body cameras. Some officers are fearful that the body cameras will not be able to capture the whole encounter and may leave cracks in the evidence, which can leave room for doubt and debate. There are also officers who do not want the body camera to record them while they are not interacting with civilians. These police officers are concerned with their personal lives being recorded and available for the public. For example, if an officer is talking about family matters with another office while they are filing paperwork or patroling, some feel that this information and material should not be available to the public. Times like those make it important that police officers have the option to turn off their body cameras at appropriate times, where there would be no need to collect evidence. Meck (2018) covers the threat the body cameras can possible have to the officers,
“…the men and women to whose bodies the cameras will actually be attached know well that whatever the stated policy reasons for the cameras, management, and citizens will demand that these records of their citizen contacts be used to assess their job performance toward that end, to provide evidence for their discipline and criminal prosecutions.”
If police officers are carrying out their duties in a professional manner, and there is no private material in the footage, they have no reason to be apprehensive of what citizens may see if the information is public. “Public disclosure is essential for those programs to live up to their promise of improving police forces and their interactions with society, whether through a protected government speaker or a right to know claim,” (De Statsio 2018).
Relying on the claims of suspects/convicted criminals and police officers is not an effective or practical way to handle law enforcement. Body cameras should be a requirement for police officers to wear while on duty. These cameras should be recording while the officer has even the potential of coming into contact with a civilian, and the recordings should stay private unless granted by the court to be made public in order to respect the suspect’s privacy under the fourth amendment. Body worn cameras solidify the truth and are not easily arguable, which eliminates having to rely on the claims from either side. Body worn cameras will provide the truth to many cases to come, and even prevent many cases from happening.