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Pros and Cons of Body Cameras

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Pros and Cons of Body Cameras

Police body cameras record interactions between police and the public. They may be activated by the officer or at certain times, depending on the camera and departmental policy. These cameras provide benefits but also come with certain drawbacks. Here is what you need to know about body cameras.

Pros of Body Cameras

Some of the most important benefits of body cameras are:

Evidentiary Value

Body cameras help keep police departments more honest. For far too long, criminal cases were decided by determining whether to believe a law enforcement officer (who was often given the benefit of the doubt) or the account of a person who is charged with a crime. It is not unheard of for law enforcement officers to lie, crime technicians to fabricate evidence, or laboratory workers to take shortcuts that affect the credibility of evidence.

In many areas where body cameras were adopted by local law enforcement agencies, there was a decrease in:

  • The use of physical force during arrest
  • Civil cases against the police department
  • Complaints against officers wearing body cameras

Body cameras can also help reduce the number of false accusations lodged against police officers, which can make new allegations more credible.

Violence Prevention

Police body cameras can help prevent violence between law enforcement and citizens. A study by the University of Cambridge cited a drop in force rate by approximately 50% after police wore body cameras.

Police Accountability

Police body cameras create an objective record of video and audio that can independently verify events. Knowing that cameras are on often helps to improve police accountability and lower instances of police misconduct. After years of trends involving untampered incidents of police misconduct, body cameras can provide greater accountability and transparency, which may help repair the fractured relationship between police and citizens.

Training Tool

Police body camera footage may prove a valuable training tool for seasoned police officers and new recruits. Some of the best training can be provided by showing such videos, analyzing them, and determining what could have improved the situation. Best of all, the videos represent real interactions and give law enforcement officers a better idea of the problems they may encounter in the field.

Cons of Body Cameras

Some of the drawbacks of police body cameras include:

Restricted Privacy

One of the biggest concerns about body cameras is that they can invade people’s privacy. The cameras might be running for the entire interaction between citizens and the police. They may record confidential information, people undressed, innocent bystanders, and other sensitive information. Additionally, the videos are typically owned by the police, so they could be used to create separate databases or as points in facial recognition software. Victims and witnesses may be afraid of appearing on camera and may fear for their safety. Additionally, people with mental illnesses or disabilities may have their conditions recorded without their consent.

Poor Video Quality

Even when the police camera is activated, technical issues can render footage useless or confusing. Common problems related to body cams’ include:

  • Cameras fall off the officer and lose a critical point of view
  • The law enforcement officer and suspect are too close, making it difficult to clearly see the interaction
  • Inaudible sound or conversation
  • Blurs or lags in the footage

Expense

Even when body cameras are determined to be a good idea, there is no guarantee that the department will be able to afford them. Body cameras can be expensive. There are also additional ongoing expenses, such as training, data storage, extra staff to review the data, and ancillary equipment. Many police departments, especially smaller ones, cannot afford these expenses.

What Can You Do During the Altercation?

If you are stopped by police when a body camera is in use, here are some steps you can take to protect your rights and your safety:

  • Do not resist – Even if you think the law enforcement officer’s request is unreasonable or that you are being discriminated against, try to comply. You do not want to go up against an armed person supposedly acting under the color of law. Additionally, resisting arrest can be a separate charge, so it is usually in your best interest to comply and then take legal action later.
  • Look for evidence – When possible, try to see if any human witnesses saw the altercation. Take note of the presence of any other cameras in the area.
  • Contact an experienced lawyer – A police misconduct attorney can take steps to protect your rights and hold the law enforcement officer accountable for their actions.

Reach Out to the Helbraun Law Firm for an Experienced Police Misconduct Attorney

If you believe that you were mistreated by police, call our firm at (415) 982-4000 or contact us online to speak with an experienced California police misconduct attorney. We can review your case and discuss your legal rights and options. Contact us today to get started.

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