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.
Some of the most important benefits of body cameras are:
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:
Body cameras can also help reduce the number of false accusations lodged against police officers, which can make new allegations more credible.
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 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.
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.
Some of the drawbacks of police body cameras include:
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.
Even when the police camera is activated, technical issues can render footage useless or confusing. Common problems related to body cams’ include:
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.
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:
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.
Attorney David M. Helbraun at the Helbruan Law Firm in San Francisco emphasize litigation and conflict resolution in the areas of legal malpractice, civil rights & police misconduct and insurance & tort litigation.
We serve the following localities: San Francisco County, San Francisco, San Mateo County, Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, Daly City, Half Moon Bay, Menlo Park, Millbrae, Pacifica, Portola Valley, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Mateo, South San Francisco, Alameda County, Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Castro Valley, Dublin, Emeryville, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Newark, Oakland, and Pleasanton.
Please do not include any confidential or sensitive information in a contact form, text message, or voicemail. The contact form sends information by non-encrypted email, which is not secure. Submitting a contact form, sending a text message, making a phone call, or leaving a voicemail does not create an attorney-client relationship.