Should all Police Officers Wear Body Cameras?

There is a lot of debate in society over law enforcement procedures. However, the number one debate for communities around the United States is whether police officers should be required to wear body cameras. Many government officials have helped to push the body camera campaign, and many states have done several studies to see whether having body cameras on officers would be beneficial.  Working in law enforcement is a very stressful job. For many officers they work difficult hours, which causes them to be away from their families for a long period of time. Having body cameras on all law enforcement officers is beneficial to citizens and police officers, because they get rid of false claims, lower police misconduct, and provide valuable evidence.

Body cameras have many benefits to the community, but they allow officers to be accountable for the amount of force they use during alterations (Lawrence). Some law enforcement officers tend to get caught up in the moment of excitement, and forget how much force they are using on a suspect. This causes many people to get upset, due to the unnecessary roughness that police officers use when arresting individuals. For many of these individuals they find it is their word against the police officers, and in most cases the police officer is typically believed. However, with body cameras it allows justice to be served for the citizens who are mistreated while being arrested by law enforcement. One perfect example of body cameras proving who was wrong in a crime, is the arrest of Marcus Jeter in the summer of 2012 (Harvard). When he was arrested, he was charged with eluding the police, resisting arrest, and aggravated assault of an officer (Harvard). Like all meetings with police officers, some parts of the encounter were caught on the officer’s cruiser (Harvard). Jeter said when the officers were arresting him, they used excessive force on him, and he did not act violently (Harvard). The Police Department did an internal investigation on their officers, and found their officers did nothing wrong (Harvard). Like most police officer vs. citizen incidents, the officers that were involved in the accident were believed and Jeter was quickly to be seen as the bad guy. However, it later came out a second police car was involved in the accident, and had recorded the accident on its dash board camera (Harvard). The second car swerved in front of Jeter’s SUV, which caused him to hit his head on the steering wheel (Harvard). The camera also shows Jeter is sitting with his hands up, and not moving as he waits for the officers to approach (Harvard). When the officers approach Jeter’s vehicle, one officer is holding a pistol and the other has a shotgun and busts out his driver side window with his baton (Harvard). After busting out Jeter’s window, the officers proceed to rip him out the car and beat him with the baton (Harvard). After reviewing the footage, prosecutors dropped all the charges against Jeter, and indicted the officers that were involved in the incident (Harvard). This is one of the very many cases where cameras were able to keep a citizen out of jail for a long period of time, because prosecutors had hard evidence to prove the citizens did nothing wrong. Police officers are supposed to be held to a higher standard than the rest of society, because they protect citizens and up hold the law. If an officer fails to up hold the law, then it causes many of the citizens to question the actions of all law enforcement officers. Body cameras requires police officers to be held to that higher standard. If an officer starts to conduct themselves in an inappropriate manner, they are more likely to correct themselves due to having video footage of how they are acting. Many officers know if they are caught acting inappropriately, they are going to be subject to an investigation through their department, and they could possibly lose their job.

Having body cameras on police officers has greatly reduced the number of civilian complaints (Harvard). Many people do not want to be seen as the bad guy on camera, so they act politely towards police officers. Body cameras lowers the rate of police misconduct too (Harvard). Police officers realize with the body cameras being worn on their chests, all of their actions are being constantly monitored. If they do something that is questionable; they know it will be immediately reviewed by their department, and their police department will have video evidence to decide whether or not they acted properly. Placing body cameras on all police officers, benefits the police officers by helping to better train police officers across the nation (Lawrence). This not only benefits law enforcement, it helps citizens when the officers respond to different incidents, they will be better trained and know how to respond more accurately. When these officers respond to different confrontations and resolve them smoother than before, it makes the streets safer for everyone. There have been many instances of the body camera’s potential to reduce officer-civilian conflict, but the most commonly known is the Rialto study (Ramirez). This study took place in Rialto, CA where, several officers were randomly selected to wear body cameras. The results of the study showed the numbers for use-of-force incidents were down by 59 percent. Also, the number of citizen complaints were reduced by 87.5 percent (Ramirez). This is proof citizens are more likely to react violently towards police officers, when they are not wearing body cameras than if they were to wear a body camera. California is not only the only state that has seen a reduction in the amount of people responding violently to police officers when an incident occurs. In Connecticut, body cameras have discouraged people from filming unfounded complaints against police officers (Cigno). In 2014, a survey was done on the officers that had a complaint filed on them, and only 10% of them were wearing body cameras (Lawrence).  This survey shows officers who wear body cameras are more likely to not have a complaint filed on them, than officers who are not wearing the body cameras. President Obama announced in December of 2014, the federal government would allow $263 in federal funding for law enforcement agencies to purchase body worn cameras, and improve training (Harvard). This gave police departments the much-needed boost to get their departments started by placing officers with body cameras. Providing body cameras on all police officers also provides valuable public relations benefits to the agency. When police officers are wearing the cameras, citizens know they are on camera. This causes them to be less likely to commit crimes on camera. They are more willing to be friendly to law enforcement and come up to them and ask them how their day is going. These benefits everyone as a whole. When citizens are friendlier towards police officers it means, they trust them. If an officer comes into a neighborhood to respond to an accident, they know they can rely on the friendly citizens in the neighborhood to tell them the truth about what happened before they arrived. If the police officers have a witness they can rely on, they are more likely to put the bad guy in jail. This helps to clean up crime off the streets, and helps to make citizens feel safe in their community.

Body cameras also greatly reduces the number of assaults on police officers that are committed by civilians (Thomas). These cameras provide evidence, and allow prosecutors to review the evidence to see who started the altercation. This is very beneficial, and can make the difference in winning a court case in some instances. The footage that is obtained by the body cameras that is worn by police officers, helps police officers gain a confession. The video evidence shows the prosecutors, the confession a suspect gave was voluntary, searches are consented to, and physical descriptions are matched (Harvard).  When police officers obtain evidence from suspects it is often questioned in the courtroom by the defense attorneys. The defense attorneys will provide questionable doubt for the jury, about whether the evidence obtained in the pursuit was originally there or put there by officers. However, with body cameras on police officers it allows the questionable doubt to be taken out of the courtroom. The prosecution, defense, and jury can clearly see the evidence was there before an officer found it. The confessions that are gained by police officers often come into question due to many prosecutors not knowing whether the suspect was persuaded into giving the confession. In order to give a confession, a suspect voluntary give the confession. However, with many police interviews, the suspect must know their rights before they can be interviewed by officers. The use of cameras helps the prosecution to know a suspect’s rights were read before the interview was started. If the suspect still chose to state a confession after their rights were read, then it would be legal confession. Body cameras also helps prove searches are consented to; they show video proof the citizen is giving the officer permission to search through their personal property. This helps to use any evidence that is obtained in a search in the courtroom, because it cannot be argued it was obtained illegally. Having body cameras on all officers helps to ensure physical descriptions on suspects is correctly matched. This helps the justice system put the right person in jail, and keep those who are good out of jail.

Having body cameras on all police officers will benefit everyone. Police officers have a lot of stress on them from day to day. They are constantly being watched by the public and every move they make is questioned. The use of body cameras gives law enforcement officers the opportunity to have proof they followed legal procedures when arresting a subject. These body cameras not only protect the officers, but they help to protect the citizens. Officers are able to learn new training techniques through video and are able to better react to situations. This helps to make the difference in resolving situations that arise while on street for different communities, and makes the communities safer in the long run. Body cameras also help other branches of the legal system. They provide the much-needed proof for the prosecution to use while in the courtroom to win a case.

Works Cited

 

 

Cigno, John T. “Truth and Evidence: The Role of Police Officer Body Cameras in Reforming Connecticut’s Criminal Justice System.” Connecticut Law Review 49.1 (2016): 293-326. Academic Search Complete. Web. 7 July 2017.

 

Lawrence, Mindy. “Lights, Camera, Action: The Age of Body Cameras in Law Enforcement and the Effects of Implementing Body Camera Programs in Rural Communities.” North Dakota Law Review 91.3 (2015): 611-32. Academic Search Complete. Web. 8 July 2017.

 

“Considering Police Body Cameras.” Harvard Law Review128.6 (2015): 1794-817. Academic Search Complete. Web. 8 July 2017.

 

Thomas, Ethan. “The Privacy Case for Body Cameras: The Need for a Privacy- Centric Approach to Body Camera Policymaking.” Columbia Journal of Law & Social Problems 50.2 (2017): 191-228. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 July 2017.

 

Ramirez, Eugene P. “Report on Body Worn Cameras.” (n.d.): 3-22. Web.

 

 

 

 

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