Many police departments are now mandating that their officers wear body cameras. On the surface, this seems like a great way to discourage negative behavior from civilians and police officers alike. But do police body cams actually work? Do they truly foster an increased sense of accountability for both police officers and citizens?
Footage Isn’t Made Public
One of the biggest issues with footage from police body cameras is that it is not made public. Some jurisdictions that use body cams have also passed legislation that allows law enforcement to keep body cam footage away from public viewing. Since transparency between law enforcement and concerned citizens is seemingly one of the dominant reasons why body cams are being used, it seems that legislation keeping footage from open public access might be counterproductive. If you are dealing with a situation like this, look into finding a lawyer who has experience with police encounters.
Are Cams Causing Stress for Police Officers?
Not every police officer is corrupt, but having to wear a body cam can be stressful for police officers. Body cams can help to protect them, but it can also lead to some police officers feeling like they’re having their job performance monitored for even minor mishaps. However, since body cams are being built with GPS installed, they can be helpful in an “officer down” moment. In these instances, an officer might only have seconds or minutes to send out a call for help since they could end up passing out from blood loss or go into shock.
Body Cams Aren’t Active All the Time
Citizens seeking legal protection in a case against a police officer who was wearing a body cam might have a tough time proving their innocence if the officers responding to a call in their case did not have their body cams activated. While some jurisdictions have successfully implemented the plan to activate body cams when necessary and be as transparent with them as possible, many others have yet to do so. If a police officer forgets to activate their body camera or has to respond to a sudden and immediate threat with no time available to activate the camera, footage simply won’t be available at all. The failure to activate a body cam counteracts the reason for having a body cam in the first place. There are also several problems with body cameras that we still need to overcome.
Safety and transparency should go hand-in-hand when it comes to the law, and both police officers and citizens should be held accountable for their actions. However, the body camera system has not yet been optimized and streamlined into a successful program nationwide.