Opinion: Police Cameras

Police Cameras

 

Even if you haven’t keep up with news over the last few months, you’ve no doubt heard of many officer involved shootings in the last few years and you’ve heard of police misconduct over the last few years, These situations proven or alleged are not new to the public scene.

There are always stories about cops abusing their power. Using a cop camera, a very small camera on the officers uniform to record everything he or she does while on duty is what we’re are talking about when we refer to the term “cop cam” or “police cam.”

When I first heard that some offices around the country used them I started wondering about the idea of all police officers everywhere, using them including Federal law enforcement agents such as the DEA, FBI or ATF to name a few. I even think military special ops aught to wear them but that is a topic for another opinion paper.

My first thought about this cop cam idea was that it could easily and swiftly resolve investigations on officer involved shootings. The videos the cameras would produce would make awesome training aids in ongoing officer training, academy training etc.

Some people think that there are some down side issues to this argument. There is always down sides to any idea, especially those affecting public policy.

Some of the obvious down sides would be sensitive information obtained by the officers during investigations, peoples expectations to rights of privacy and the idea that the officer might be hesitant to act in a life or death struggle knowing that there is a camera recording his or her every move.

No policy is perfect and no procedure covers everything so we need to realize that not all issues on the down side may be completely fixed. The question is, does the good that comes from an officer wearing a camera outweigh the down sides.

Let’s take a look at some of the down sides to a cop cam. On the issue of right to privacy, if the suspect is arrested and goes to trial the courts can decide if the camera recordings are admissible as evidence just like they do for all other types of evidence.

Obviously the data from these cameras will be stored for some length of time. If privacy is still a concern to the suspect then some sort of legal remedy could be set up to mark certain videos as sealed like they currently do for some minor court records.

As to the concern for the officer being afraid to act in a life or death situation. This one is tough because in spite of all their training, no one knows how one will react in a situation where there is potential for a gun being fired and someone getting shot or killed. In spite of this, there are people willing to wear a uniform and a badge to keep the peace and fight crime. They rely on their training. That same idea should apply with a cop cam being on board. They simply rely on their training.

If a mistake happens, as I am sure they do, all the time in the execution of the officers daily routine, the footage from the video can be used as a training tool to help them and other officers in the future avoid the same mistakes.

Sensitive information that officers could come by responding to a domestic dispute could be classified not for public consumption. The courts may have to be involved as someone might object and request a Freedom of Information request. What a cop does on duty is for the most part subject to public review.

Speaking to the up side to cops wearing cop cams. There was an officer involved shooting in Salt Lake County in September 2014. The person shot did not have a gun on him. The police officer was cleared and restored to active duty. Why? The cop cam being used by the shooting officer showed that the officer followed protocol and reasonably feared for his safety when the young man refused to follow the officers warning.

At the first part of this month there was another exoneration of a cop who shot a man with a fake gun. Thank you body cam.

These two examples are great reasons for all police officers and all law enforcement officers at the local, state and federal level to be wearing them. The camera almost never lies. The camera would replace shooting reviews and investigations of office misconduct but they certainly would speed up the process and ensure more accurate conclusions in these investigations.

In spite of a few down sides (there are work-arounds for most down sides) the benefit, in my opinion far outweigh the down side to all cops wearing body cameras.

 

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