Body Worn Video Steering Group

Body Worn Video – Does The Public Have A Right To Know?

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Body worn video cameras are fast becoming standard issue for police worldwide. With the benefits being felt by most, the calls to expand research and questions relating to releasing video to the media take focus.

Often, the Rialto Study is referenced as proof of success of body worn video. However, the researchers have said that despite the 50% reduction in use-of-force the study must be replicated in other areas for comparative results.

Co-author Alex Sutherland speaks of the study,

“It’s a small department,” he says. “The police chief was kind of involved in implementation.” Sutherland says that if these particular circumstances aren’t present, then perhaps these cameras “wouldn’t be as effective. But we just simply don’t know that at the moment.”

Sutherland says we can’t say anything definitive until more studies are done, in more places.

“If public money is being spent on this technology, the onus is certain to make sure that it’s being evaluated as it’s being rolled out, rather than deciding that it works and then that’s that,” Sutherland says.

It has been said more than once that body worn video is not for policing the police. Officers such as Sergeant Adam Plantinga do support body worn video, and the ‘400 Things Cops Know’ writer asserts that video is not the whole story.

Officer Tyler Jacob Stewart was fatally shot while following up on a domestic violence case, the first such incident to be captured on a body worn video camera. Local media requested the video, which prompts Flagstaff Chief Kevin Treadway to ask,

“The public right – does the public right to know in this particular case outweigh the pretty significant trauma that showing this on the nightly news has for the members of the family? You know, I have to say no.”

Officer Tyler Stewart

Officer Tyler Stewart

“Even the model policies that we looked at didn’t foresee this, you know, very specific kind of incident occurring.”

It is exactly that which is totally unexpected that sends shivers through any community, and remembering that body worn video cameras cannot prevent randomness in situations that occur should take precedent. Using body worn video is not just to record an incident, but that information can be used to train other young officers. Preventative measures work better, and body worn video provides the protection the police and public want.

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