How Body Cameras Can Help Keep Police Departments Transparent

There’s no doubt that policemen and those who protect everyday citizens can never be too careful these days. It’s true that there are scores of policemen who do their job well and don’t look for any credit. But as you’ve likely seen on the news, there are have been many situations in the last few years that have left American uneasy and distrusting about the role of law enforcement and of police officers.

When it comes to being held accountable, police car cameras and body cameras are a good choice for doing so. It’s understandable why some police officers might turn an uneasy eye toward body cameras, but with a police car camera mounted on the dashboard and body cameras there are many advantages to using them:

  • Holding officers accountable: With a police car camera mounted on the dashboard and body cameras, officers are held accountable. You’ve likely been in situations where you know you’re being watched, so you act differently. Body cameras can have the same effect. Body cameras can capture important information in critical situations so commanding officers and everyday citizens will know exactly how an officer carried themselves in a particular situation.
  • A clear picture: Body cameras don’t capture every single movement, but they get video footage at crucial points to paint a much clearer picture for situations like standoffs or high areas with traffic. This eliminates the guesswork that happens in tense situations because there’s cut-and-dried evidence of what happened.
  • They’re not obtrusive: Police have a lot of equipment to carry while they’re on the job. Adding a body camera to the mix might cause some officers to grumble, but statistics show they are a necessary part of the job now.
    As of March 2015, it was estimated that about a third of United States police departments were using body cameras. Officers may grumble, but cameras of any kind can be very effective when it comes to keeping officers safe. A Pew Research Center study of 8,000 officers found that 93% of them are becoming more concerned about the dangers of the job.
    There is plenty of police equipment that can be big and bulky, but cameras are actually pretty small. Not only that, but they can be moved to different parts of the body. As an added bonus, they don’t weigh much. As a small, lightweight, easily mobile piece of equipment, it really doesn’t get in the way of a law enforcement officer doing their job.
  • Fewer complaints: You’ve likely seen dozens of new stories where tense situations between police officers and citizens have led to complaints against police officers. Fortunately, body cameras and police car cameras can help foster an atmosphere of trust and bring that criticism down. Recent data has found 93% of officers who use body cameras are likely to receive fewer complaints from the public. Additionally, 66% of officers and 93% of citizens support the use of body cameras to record interactions between officers and the public.
    Since body cameras provide concrete evidence, officers can spend more time focusing on other tasks, without having to worry about how a situation might look in the media. On the flip side, body cameras and police car cameras can also shine a light on good things officers do for the people in their communities.

It’s true that body cameras can have many positive benefits, but there are a few more things police departments should know about them before they look to buy them:

  • Body cameras come with a high upfront cost, as it usually costs several hundred dollars per unit.
  • There have been some concerns about privacy with body cameras and whether it’s ok to record citizens during their interactions with police officers.
  • The footage on today’s body cameras is all digital, so that means police departments need people who are going to be able to store, catalog and easily sift through many hours of footage.

Today’s police departments can gain several advantages from using cameras on the job. They can focus more on important tasks, be more transparent and overall, help foster an atmosphere of trust between themselves and the citizens they’re sworn to protect.

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