Getting the Picture
Law enforcement officers know that video cameras can be integral tools when it comes to criminal investigations. Most departments across the country now have dash cameras that can record events taking place both in front of an officer’s vehicle and in the vehicle itself. These cameras have helped officers corroborate their side of the story when their actions are challenged by a suspect who feels slighted.
With the advent of smartphones, more people than ever are able to record incidents between officers and suspects. Often these recordings present a skewed and limited version of the events that may have occurred meant to portray officers in a negative light. Combined with the fact that dash cameras have limited capabilities, it may be difficult for an officer to present solid support for his or her version of what happened with a suspect. However, wearable body cameras on law enforcement officers may turn this around due to the ability of an officer to record a more complete picture of the challenges they face in the course of their duties.
The Call for LEOs to Wear Body Cameras
Last December, following a series of high-profile unconnected fatality incidents which have called into question the actions of law enforcement officers, President Obama pledged $263 million dollars in new federal funding to be matched by state funds, that would help pay for more than 50,000 body cameras for law enforcement officers. While 50,000 cameras won’t be enough to equip every law enforcement nationwide, other government officials have considered providing funding and training for law enforcement body-worn cameras. Similar to the increase in the use of magnetometers and x-ray machines brought about by courthouse-security concerns in the 1990s, body cameras may soon become commonplace on city streets.
Practical and Policy Considerations
There have been a number of studies performed looking into the potential consequences of implementing a broad-scale body-worn camera program. One excellent paper — Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned — is the result of a joint project by the Office of Community Oriented Police Services, a component of the Department of Justice, and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). It suggests a number of potential effects of implementing a body camera program, as well as suggestions for departments looking to initiate such a plan. Some of the possible benefits of body-worn cameras discussed include a perceived greater sense of police-action transparency, improved officer performance, as well as an increase in suspect self-control.
In today’s law enforcement environment, a body-worn camera program may provide officers and departments numerous benefits, not the least of which are evidentiary, practical, and political. With increased public scrutiny of the actions of law enforcement officers, departments may find it easier than ever before to obtain funding for and training with body-worn cameras. If you are faced with an incident, whether recorded or not, call the U.S. Law Shield Emergency Hotline to have an immediate conversation with an LEO Program Attorney. We’ve got your back.