All captured by in-car or interrogation room camera

All across the United States you see and hear the stories of police brutality. You hear how awful the police are and how they should be held accountable for their acts of violence and racism. It’s on the news, in the newspaper, and all over social media. When people are pulled over their first thought is to take out their phone and start recording, so they can post it to the internet and show the world the “abuse” they are taking from the police. To combat all the negative behaviors that the officers are supposedly displaying they could wear body cameras. There has been an ongoing discussion with county and state governments across the United States about wearing them. They have been weighing the pros and cons trying to decide whether police should or should not have to wear the cameras. Body cameras could potentially improve the public’s view of police. They could also help protect the officers against false claims of violence. There are many things that should be discussed before making the decision to invest in these cameras.      Missouri defines “mobile video recorder” as any system or device that captures visual signals that is capable of installation in a vehicle or being worn or carried by personnel of a law enforcement agency. A 2012 report by the Office of Justice Programs National Institute of Justice defines body-worn cameras as “mobile audio and video capture devices that allow officers to record what they see and hear. Devices can be attached to various body areas, including the head… or to the body by pocket… And they have the capability to record officer interactions that previously could only be captured by in-car or interrogation room camera systems.”(Body-Worn Cameras)There are many locations on the body where a camera could be placed. Location of the cameras can vary pending every department and each individual.  Where it is mounted also determines what the actual camera sees and how clear the sound can record what going on. If the camera misses information that is important to the situation than it could cause someone who is guilty to be set free due to lack of evidence or footage and vice versa. If the camera misses information it could also harm the officers’ reputation and/or destroy their career.The most common mount for the camera is on the chest of the officer. The chest mounts may not capture the full interaction or altercation, although.  Head mounts located on sunglasses record most closely to what the officer is actually seeing and looking at. However, not every situation calls for sunglasses; especially at night or inside a building. The other issue with head mounted cameras are when/if the officer moves their head away from the interaction you could lose footage/critical shots of the situation. If the mounts are a little higher up on the chest, it could give a better view but it would be easily knocked off during an altercation.”When thinking about the mounting location, an agency should consider the uniform types worn by officers and how uniforms may vary throughout the year (summer, winter). Additional accessories may be required to ensure the camera is properly positioned, securely attached and protected to support the officer and his or her unique mission. There are a number of different types of camera with different options, including user controls such as push to record, touch-screen controls, video and audio feed, and playback in a field.” ( cameras have different options. Some have night vision while others don’t. The quality of camera is different, the sizes, weights, battery life length are all different. Some cameras may only be able to be mounted in certain spots. While there are a few cameras that allow the officer to play back a recent recording- most do not. One of the biggest differences in the cameras would be the cost of each individual one.  Not all, but some of these cameras do have an option that the makers call a “pre- recorded buffer”. This allows the camera to record a little beforehand and get the entire situation and not only after the officer hits the record button. The “AXON Body” by the maker Taser constantly records the footage and keeps the 30 seconds of video beforehand as well as what happens after. This is especially great for when an officer is in the middle of a potential fight/arrest and could forget to hit record. “Although many cameras can record continuously, there are significant concerns about privacy, and some police departments have determined that the volume of video associated with continuous recording would be too costly to store and maintain. The marginal cost of storing extra hours of video” (“Police Body-Worn Cameras”)            The storage for the footage captured is handled by “the cloud.” The cloud acts like an evidence room; only it’s all digital files. Once it’s recorded, it’s recorded; it encrypts every frame before uploading it to the cloud (Li). The officers do not have the permission to view the footage after it has been recorded. The only individuals that are allowed to view the tapes are verified administrators; usually the police chief. There is a log that also keeps track of what officers do to the footage, whether they apply tags to it to identify the situation or something else. The original video remains saved for a certain number of days determined by the department (typically 30), and the administrator receives a notification before the cloud deletes it.If an officer were to leave his or her camera on at all times, it would quickly acquire loads of data. Oakland’s police department, for example, has nearly five years of data (Li). The typical usage of the cameras would be to turn them on when the officer starts walking up to a situation or interaction and turn them off when it’s over, and they are back in their patrol car. Having the option to hit record, and the camera having the knowledge to track up to 30 seconds BEFORE the button being pressed could be very useful in cases where police are being accused of brutality. “The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has developed specific guidelines that departments should consider when contracting with third-party vendors for cloud-based data storage. Selected key issues include: the vendor’s system should be compliant with the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Policy (CJIS); the law enforcement agency should retain ownership of the data; the vendor should be prohibited from mining or sharing data without consent from the agency; and the agency should be permitted to conduct audits of the vendor’s cloud system. Agencies should consult the IACP guide before contracting with third-party vendors for data storage.” (Topics Technology)Civil rights and civil liberties advocates, police department leadership, and experts who have studied the issue generally agree that subjects need to know that they are being recorded. A lot of people question whether they will be told that they will be recorded. Wiretapping and eavesdropping laws go against the recording interactions between people. “Seven states – California, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Oregon – have made exceptions to their eavesdropping laws for police officers wearing body cameras while in the performance of their duties.” Oregon’s law provides additional information for their eavesdropping exception, stating it does not apply if the officer fails to announce the conversation is being recorded and had an opportunity to do so without jeopardizing their safety or impairing a criminal investigation. If the officer violates this provision, the body camera data is inadmissible as evidence. “Privacy rights of the public are a primary concern. BWCs have the potential to impinge on community members’ expectation of privacy. The technology may also present concerns for vulnerable populations such as children and victims of crime.” Law enforcement agencies should fully investigate state privacy laws using body worn cameras. Officer privacy should also be addressed. At the February 26-27, 2015 Bureau of Justice Assistance BWC Expert Panel, some of the audience expressed concerns about BWCs because the technology gives supervisors the opportunity to go on “fishing expeditions” against officers in their command. Prosecutors and defense attorneys will want to review BWC video related to their cases, but they too have an obligation to protect the privacy of community members captured in the video. Therefore, it is important that the impact on prosecutorial and defense bar resources is taken into account when implementing a BWC program.            One of the biggest questions when considering the use of the body cameras is whether or not the recorded footage will be allowed to be viewed by the public. This is actually determined by each state’s privacy laws and not the police departments. In Missouri, you are able to request a video and watch it, if you would like. Legislation is pending that would limit public release of body worn camera video. Some people think, “What good are the cameras if we can’t see the recordings?” These are the things that we have to think about when we put limits on what is open for the public to view and what they can access on their own.            “Before allowing the video to be released to the public the court must consider whether the video contains information reasonably likely to disclose private matters in where the public has no legitimate concern or will bring shame or humiliation to a person or was taken in a place where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.”(BJA) Any person who receives video taken in a non-public location pursuant to a court order cannot describe or display the recording without providing all non-law enforcement personnel in the video with notice. Those individuals then have 10 days to seek a court order to prevent the video from being displayed. Failure to comply with the notice requirement is punishable by a civil action.Failure to Record and Workplace Surveillance: The New York Civil Liberties Union asserts that officers should face consequences for failing to record. They recommend that a presumption against the officer should exist for failure to record, which an officer can rebut with proof of a mechanical malfunction. (President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing)            “Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legislated how body-worn camera data is addressed under open record laws. In statute, states specify procedures for the public to request footage and which footage is and is not to be released to the public. The goal of these provisions is to be transparent in law enforcement without unnecessarily infringing on privacy.” (BJA)In 2014 Obama held a meeting in which he offered the police agencies in the United States $263 million dollars. He said this money was to go towards buying of the police worn body cameras. Since that day, several states across the country decided that they would make these cameras a requirement for their law enforcement officers. In doing so, they (state governments) hope that this would help improve the morale of officers and help the outlook of officers. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have legislated funding opportunities for state and local police departments to purchase body camera equipment, and to be “authorized “to view the recorded footage. The average cost of a single camera is around $400- $1,000. The price varies on storage capabilities.There have been several claims against the police since the creation of the police officer career. The police are at the core of the wrong doing, never the deceased. The death of Michael Brown, who was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9, 2014, resulted in nationwide protests against what civil rights advocates say is law enforcement’s tendency to be overly aggressive when dealing with black men’s. The Black Lives Matter movement evolved from a social media hashtag into a national protest against police brutality.  There is footage of Michael at a gas station just before his altercation with Wilson. After the shooting there were tweets showing the end result. There’s footage of Michael Brown at a convenience store before he was shot to death and there are tweets showing the aftermath (Li). Wilson was not wearing a body camera; therefore, all we have is hearsay and very conflicting statements from “eyewitnesses”. Several years before Michael Brown; Jason Stockley, then a St. Louis officer, fatally shot Smith, 24, after a police chase on December 2011 over a suspected drug deal. After he pleaded not guilty to a murder charge, he waived his right to a jury trial, meaning the ruling was left to a judge who found him not guilty. There were protesters that were throwing rocks and other hard objects at officers and the mayor’s house.  Stockley had said he acted in self-defense and believed Smith was reaching for a gun in his car, but prosecutors accused the officer of planting a silver revolver to justify the shooting. Unfortunately, there were no cameras that were recording at the time. Police officers are indicted in less than 1% of killings, but the indictment rate for civilians involved in a killing is 90%. (FiveThirtyEight) On average, in the United States, a police officer takes the life of a citizen every 7 hours. (Fatal Encounters) In 2015, there were 1,307 people who lost their lives at the hands of a police officer or law enforcement official. In 2016, that number was 1,152. There has been a lot of research that shows, consistently, that these body worn cameras do in fact contribute to a pretty large reduction in complaints against law enforcement officers.  For example, “in Rialto, California, community member complaints against officers dropped by 88% after BWCs were deployed in the field. In Mesa, Arizona, BWCs were associated with a 60% decrease in complaints against law enforcement (Mesa Police Department, 2013). In Phoenix, Arizona, complaints against officers who wore the cameras declined by 23%, compared to a 10.6% increase among comparison officers and 45.1% increase among patrol officers in other precincts (Katz et al., 2015). Law enforcement executives agree that BWCs reduce complaints. Former Police Chief Ron Miller of Topeka, Kansas stated, “There’s absolutely no doubt that having BWCs reduces the number of complaints against officers.” ( Having these cameras become mandatory would help the public trust the officers. It would keep both the citizens and the officers on track and accountable for their actions.            The Force Science Institute completed the first study on whether body worn cameras were effective was with the Rialto Police Department. This police department found that in 2009 thru 2010, officers reported using force 70 times. Of the 70 times officers used force, the public made 30 complaints. The Rialto Police Department saw similar numbers in regard to using force for the following two years However, during the pilot program, February 2012 thru February 2013; the reporting officers had to use force close to 22 times. The public made fewer than 5 complaints against officers. Even though this was a yearlong pilot program, insufficient data was collected to say that body worn cameras protect the officers and the public from unwanted complaints or excessive force.            The Los Angeles Police Department announced that they will be buying “7,000 on-body cameras to expand transparency and accountability” The police chief of the Los Angeles Police Department; Chief Charlie Beck said that “Officers will have tremendously powerful evidence and the ability to collect it. We are starting a journey that will go on for decades.”There was a nationwide survey that was conducted by PoliceOne and TASER (maker of body cameras) when asked, “Do officer-worn cameras reduce false claims and litigation?” The numbers were in favor of the cameras. The answered showed that 86.4% said yes, while only 13.6% said no. (PoliceOne)”Courts will expect video footage of incidents. When no footage is available the officer’s integrity and the case will be put into question.” – Officer in a dept. of 26-100, all have body cameras”It makes the department transparent and would eliminate 90% of the unfounded complaints from the citizens and not waste the officer’s time with such complaints. It would also give perspective to use of force situations, but it should not be relied on solely in place of the officer’s testimony.” – Officer in dept. of 500+ with some body cameras”In the testing we did of body-worn cameras, we had a number of tenured officers who wanted to wear the cameras and try them out, and their feedback was very positive. They said things like, ‘You’ll be amazed at how people stop acting badly when you say this is a camera, even if they’re intoxicated.’ And we also know that the overwhelming majority of our officers are out there doing a very good job, and the cameras will show just that.”– Douglas Gillespie, Sheriff, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department            Body cameras record interactions with the public on a day to day basis. It is important to document these interactions with others during the police-citizen encounters whether at crime or incident scenes or during traffic stops. These recording can be very useful for both the officer and their department and for the citizens. They have firsthand knowledge of what really happened and attorneys can go back and see what exactly what was said and done if in a lawsuit.  Although their cost is a little high they seem to be worth it. These videos can provide actual statements and clear objectives while in court. Body cameras are a vital tool for police officers because they ensure that officers uphold the law, help to prosecute suspects, and provide irrefutable evidence in court. Body cameras on police can be one of the best ways to slow down or even stop police brutality in the future. They provide an officer’s perspective of all encounters with people. Body cameras can make officers think twice before pulling out a gun on a citizen or if an officer does pull out a gun for a good reason, the body camera will record all that happens, and it can easily be determined whether the officer’s use of force was necessary or not.  These cameras will keep everyone accountable.