Across the United States, it is becoming increasingly common for police officers to wear body-mounted cameras in order to record their stops, calls and encounters. The usefulness of these cameras cuts both ways: The officer can use it to prove his innocence in case of an allegation of police brutality, collect evidence of a defendant’s guilt, and explain the reasonableness of decisions made in the field. On the other hand, a citizen can use the video footage if they believe that they have been the victim of police brutality or other unfair practices.
These cameras have proven to be effective. Researchers at Cambridge University conducted a 12-month study where 54 officers from the Rialto Police Department in San Bernadino County, California wore the cameras, and the results are telling:
- 60% reduction in use of force incidents (25, down from 61 the previous year)
- 88% reduction in officer complaints (3, down from 24 the previous year)
The cost to the department was $100,000 for 70 cameras, which is extremely inexpensive when compared to the cost of defending multiple police brutality lawsuits. The cameras were worn on the officers’ sunglasses, but other types can be worn on an officer’s chest or over his ear. Immediately before initiating a stop or responding to a call, the officer will start recording, and after that the footage cannot be altered or tampered with. Although it is understandable that officers may not want to wear the cameras for a variety of reasons, they certainly do hold officers accountable for their actions and provide a sense of security, for both the officer and the citizen. Further, they will save precious tax dollars. The only drawback we can see is the impact on officer morale – who would want everything they do, including potential accidental mistakes, recorded for all to second guess at a later time. Even in light of that consideration, the fact that countless officers will also be able to show when an allegation of excessive force or illegal conduct is baseless weighs heavily in favor or adopting this futuristic technology sooner rather than later. What do you think, should police be required to wear these cameras? Please leave your comments below.