Many states have created laws for body cameras, devices that police officers wear as part of their uniforms that record their point of view as they perform their duties. There are differences of opinion when it comes to body cameras, but state lawmakers consider them important for addressing police-community relations.
In every tragic police-involved shooting, the first thing the public demands is the camera footage of the events. As with the retelling of any event, there are always multiple interpretations from various witnesses. Many police departments have in-car video, which may capture an event if it occurs in front of the police cruiser and may also provide audio but will not be useful for a visual that occurs outside of the angle viewable from the in-car camera. That’s where having a body camera could really help clarify the issues for both sides by providing a first-person perspective.
Body cameras can provide a benefit to police. If the police are facing allegations of misconduct, whether it is something as severe as using excessive force or something comparably minor, having a body camera may shed light on the events in a way that is favorable to the officer. It can also help keep officers accountable and thereby improve relations with the community. But they can also be very expensive, and many police departments don’t have the sort of budget to accommodate such a large expense.
Body cameras can provide a benefit to the public. They can provide evidence that substantiates an allegation of misconduct from the police. For a member of the general public, it is often an unfortunate position to be in if the issue comes down to credibility. It is not uncommon for judges, lawyers, and others to have a tendency to believe police officers or have a bias in favor of police to the detriment of the general public. However, the expense can impact the public as well. Taxes may need to be raised to pay for the cameras, something people may oppose.
There are also privacy issues when it comes to cameras and the footage they produce. Many of these body cameras that exist currently have very clear footage. Many things that are part of the public record, whether documents or video and audio, are discoverable by the general public by various avenues. Issues may arise where the news publishes camera footage or personal private information, or a debate may ensue about whether the police can edit down the footage before the public may view it.
Even with a clear picture, events are always open to interpretation. Things can be missed. The camera can be covered, accidentally or on purpose. The audio could malfunction. Having officers wear body cameras is not necessarily the perfect solution, but the reality is that there is no perfect solution, and body cameras can be a step in the right direction.
If you’ve been charged with a crime involving a police and footage from a body camera, contact a criminal defense lawyer today.