Should Law Enforcement Personnel use Police Cameras?
The answer is coming forth as an overwhelming, “Yes!” especially since the recent turmoil in Ferguson, MO. In Ferguson a white police officer shot a black teen and since there is no real evidence, there is no way to say if the cop was over-excessive in his use of force or if the perpetrator had it coming. If the officer had been wearing some kind of body camera, the evidence would have been clear. As of today, the Ferguson Police Department has adopted the use of Police Cameras to document events.
In other areas of the country, police cameras have been adopted and some have had great success in initial statistic for crime reduction. In a cited study from USA Today, it seems that the Rialto Police Department in California adopted police cameras in 2012 and so far has seen an “88% decrease in citizen complaints and a 60% reduction in use-of-force incidents.” The author of the article wasn’t sure if that was due to the cameras or the fact that the officers were now being watched themselves, and therefor were behaving like police officers should be.
What is a Police Camera?
A police camera is a device that can be worn by the police officer to record surveillance footage when he is engaged in his duties, whether it is responding to a call, pursuing someone on foot, on a stakeout and many other scenarios. In the past, these cameras were mounted on the police car dashboards and have been made famous by the TV Show “Cops”, where it will show the actions as the officers are driving. The one drawback to this however is that as soon as the police get out of the car and pursue the perpetrator, there is no more surveillance footage except if there is a helicopter with a camera following the chase. Even then, though, there is no close-up or audio and if the chase goes into the woods, there is no recording.
Because it is getting increasing important for these chases and arrests to be documented, especially in the court of law, police officers are now starting to wear body cameras.
There are many police cameras on the market, and this AXON body camera is just an example of what some law enforcement agencies are using. What I like about this camera is its wide field of view. Just like our CCTV cameras at SecurityCameraKing.com the AXON camera can see more than most cameras on the market as you can see from the picture below.
Field of View is very important for a police camera because it shows more on the left and right then the typical police cameras out there. When recording, for the sake of evidence, you want to see as much as possible which brings me to my next point, recording time.
Another great feature about this camera is the video buffer. Just like how our DVRs and NVRs can record prior to a motion event, this body police camera will show in the recording 30 seconds prior to the officer pushing the record button. This is due to the camera always recording and deleting even when the record button is not pushed.
A third feature of this camera is the ability to record in low light which allows more to be seen at night when all the officer has is his flashlight. Other police cameras cannot record in low light so all that will be shown in court would be a dark image with sound.
These are all great features, but what good is having amazing recordings without being able to have the footage readily available for the lawyers that are going to use these in a trial?
Police Camera Surveillance Evidence
In CCTV, recorded footage is on the DVR Hard Drive, and that footage can be transferred to a storage device such as a thumb drive easily for the authorities to use. For the police camera, it is not as easy as that, but there is a solution created by evidence.com and the makers of the AXON camera, Taser. When the officer gets off duty, all he needs to do is dock the camera in the charger and it will automatically upload all the footage to edvidence.com, provided his agency subscribes to that service. Otherwise, if the law enforcement agency has their own way of keeping footage on their computers that option is available. Keeping digital evidence and maintaining it can be very costly and that is why evidence.com is a great solution. The officers can do simple searches by date, location, text and other ways to find the exact footage needed. This is especially helpful if a citizen has a complaint over how he was arrested or if the court has summoned for the evidence. Either way, the officers are assured that their footage is in tact.
In conclusion it is very important for our day to day lives to be recorded. With CCTV recording our homes, businesses and schools, there has to be documented footage on what police officers are doing. Police cameras can not only record what criminals are doing and their actions, but they are also keeping an eye on the police officers as well. The officers that use excessive force for no reason will not be able to get away with it, and also if a criminal is acting out of conduct, that will be documented as well and a clear arrest will be made.
One thing I could not find out about is if there is a penalty to the police officer that does not turn his camera on. In my opinion I believe that if the officer “forgets” to push the record button and then something controversial happens like in Ferguson MO, then the officer should be penalized.
It is my hope that police cameras will bring down the crime rate since criminals know they are being watchd, and it is also my hope that police brutality will decrease as it has done in Rialto, California.