Body Worn Cameras: Is it Viable?

Cameras are widely used today; they capture the good, bad, and the ugly. Law enforcement officers widely use this device on a daily basis in the form of dashboard cameras, dash- cams for short. Dash- cams are camera devices that can be mounted on a car’s windshield to record what the driver sees out his or her window. It is a standard that every police car have it because it documents every interaction the police officer has with a suspect. This is to document the encounter and if need be, be shown in the court of law, so no one has to guess as to what happens during the encounter. It is also to ensure several other things. For example, that the officer can write up an accurate incident report, the internal affairs investigators can use it if the suspect accuses the cop of wrong doing, increase accountability, and increase professionalism among officers.

The down side of dash cams is that it is one place and if the officer is not within view of the camera, the dash cam will not capture the incident. For example, if the officer is engaged in a struggle with an individual on a grass on the side of the road, the dash- cam is rendered useless. In other words, dash- cams cannot capture first person perspectives. To resolve this problem, some law enforcement agencies have adopted the use of body worn video devices, also known as body cameras. This can capture first hand perspectives. For example, it can capture what the police see while responding to rallies or while engaging in struggles with a suspect. It also can help with the same things dash cams help with, such as evidence collection and documentation.

I will admit having a body camera is better than not having a body camera; at least you can record some of the action there are a few downsides to body cams as well. Many factors can limit its use. Body camera footages are open to interpretation, they don’t show what officers are thinking at that moment in time, and they don’t catch everything. For example, the footage only shows a blur when an officer is in close combat struggle. As with all technology, they also may malfunction. For example, they could be broken, or left turned on or off by accident. Furthermore, officers don’t have the time or don’t want to turn them on. Body cameras can be an invasion of privacy. In other words, if left on by accident, it may record off topic discussions or people who might not want to be recorded. Since body cameras are quite expensive, the department might not acquire them in the first place.

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