Should Police wear body cameras?

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A fairly common recommendation for reducing police misconduct is to increase the use of body cameras. By recording police/citizen encounters, police supervisors, judges, reporters and others can get objective evidence of what happened instead of self serving hearsay.

Police brutality and police militarization are becoming hot topics of discussion in the United States today. The dangers of police militarization are becoming more prevalent and cases of the use of brutal force by police are becoming more common. The question is, how do we deal with these types of issues in terms of prosecuting police who used brutal force and how do we prevent these cases from occurring? What are the pros and cons of militarizing police forces around the country? The answer to solving problems with police brutality is quite simple, body cameras.

Body cameras on police can be, by far, one of the best ways to slow down or even stop police brutality. They provide an officer’s perspective of any encounter with people. Body cameras can make officers think twice before pulling out a gun on a citizen or if an officer does pull out a gun for a good reason, the body camera will record all that happens and it can easily be determined whether the officer’s use of force was necessary or not.

A study was done by the Police Foundation, which is an organization that specializes in researching law enforcement, found that when half of Rialto, California’s police force wore body cameras for a year of patrols, “there were just three complaints of excessive force against the officers which were down from 28 in the previous 12 months.”  It also found that there were “ten times more citizen’s complaints.” This is because now that police have cameras recording encounters, there is more solid evidence for or against citizens where excessive force is used. As you can see, body cameras are very effective in keeping officers from stepping out of line for the most part.

Many police departments around the country are joining in on the use of body cameras. The Los Angeles Police Department announced that they will be buying “7,000 on body cameras to expand transparency and accountability.” The police chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Chief Charlie Beck said, “Officers will have tremendously powerful evidence and the ability to collect it. We are starting a journey that will go on for decades.”

There is no reason for officers not to don body cameras, however, the logistics of arming every officer in the nation with a body camera would present an obstacle. It would be wise for officers to consider wearing such a device, whether or not this is the policy of the local law enforcement.

Denzel Turner is a Senior Political Science major from Meridian, Mississippi. He will be a contributor for The Campus Chronicle for the Spring 2017 semester.

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