Body cameras for police officers have been brought up quite a bit lately, and the discussion is coming to the forefront of the public opinion of law enforcement. What value would body cameras provide you, and how might they not help at all? In today’s blog, we will address the pros and cons of this question.
How a Police Body Cam Can Help
If you have been falsely accused of acting violently or disobeying law enforcement, an officer’s body cam can help your case by providing a clear picture of what really happened. While these cameras can’t pick up on absolutely everything an officer sees, they can help better piece together what happened in the incident in question. Video evidence is more valuable than police reports that might be based exclusively on subjective emotions or affected perspectives, while video evidence is more objective and removes a lot of that uncertainty.
In light of recent events as the public opinion of law enforcement has shifted, body cams might also be beneficial to the officers themselves, especially if they have been accused of unreasonable violence during arrest. For similar reasons as above, video evidence could work to your benefit if you have been falsely accused of unjustified violence.
In fact, recent studies on police performance involving body cams have shown a drop in complaints against law enforcement, as the presence of body cams has held officers accountable for their sometimes reckless behavior or impulsive judgment. A study actually found that there was a 60% reduction in officer use of force following body cam enforcement and shifts without cameras encountered twice as many incidences of force as shifts with cameras.
Body cameras could present an opportunity for police departments to highlight the good that officers do as well as give the public a better idea of what the day-to-day life of a police officer is like. While written testimonies represent one side of the story, video footage can represent many.
Depending on your case, body cameras might also provide a benefit to the criminal justice system, as their ability to hold parties accountable might lead to more guilty pleas with reduced costs at court. They might also result in a reduced number of civil cases brought against police for unlawful arrest or excessive force, as discussed above.
How a Police Body Cam Might Not Help
A major concern about the use of body cameras is privacy. While cameras might help your case in the scenarios described above, you may be wary of body cameras violating your personal privacy, as everything you do and say will be recorded. It might even be the unfortunate case that such evidence might harm you more than it would help you.
Further, the nature of police work involves interacting with citizens in their most vulnerable moments and most vulnerable spaces, such as their homes. Some law enforcement agencies have provided officers the right to record inside private homes as long as they have a legal right to be there, such as possessing a warrant. Would you feel comfortable knowing anyone could view footage of an incident that occurred within your home, or footage of you if you were the victim of a crime? In such a case, you may request that officers turn off the camera in sensitive or potentially dangerous situations, but this might be the very situation when evidence for your case could come up.
Another important question about body cameras is who has access to the footage during, or for how long after, your case. The method for determining evidentiary or non-evidentiary footage is questionable when it comes to who gets to decide what value the footage has to the investigation process. Even further, you might wonder whether you can take the footage to court if you have access to it, and whether you need to prove if the video has been altered from the original.
The discussion surrounding body cameras for police officers is growing increasingly relevant. Whether this becomes a requirement in law enforcement or not, it will be useful to know what you might gain or lose with body cameras. They might provide a great help to you if you have been falsely accused of violence or aggravation, but they might have drawbacks in regards to privacy infringements. If you have questions about the role of body cameras in your case, contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. Eldridge & Blakney can field any concerns you may have and discuss the potential impact they may have on your situation.
Speak with an attorney at Eldridge & Blakney for more information today.