Body Worn Video Steering Group
The body worn video expansion is so significant, a leading US congressman is pressuring the White House to include funds for police surveillance equipment in President Barack Obama’s annual budget. In December the President proposed an investment of $263 million into community policing that would include more training, and resources, with $75 million of the total funds allocated for body-worn cameras.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) wants Obama to allocate resources to outfit with body cameras any police officers in frequent contact with civilians. “We can work to do this by giving our local police officers the best tools and training available to protect and serve our communities,” Cleaver said. “This funding would be a great step to increase transparency and accountability for both law enforcement, and also the public. Make no mistake, to help communities pay for the cameras, the federal government should step up and support the effort.”
Previous BWVSG speaker and Rialto study co-author Dr Barak Ariel says “This is a promising tool for police officers, which is likely to be a game changer not only for the professionalization of policing, but in terms of police-public relations.”
The Justice Department in October published its own findings on body-worn camera programs. Their concerns also included privacy rights, changing perceptions between police and the community and expectations over how information from the video recordings should be shared, Ronald Davis, director of the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office said.
The Miami-Dade County Police Department has been researching and studying the use of body-worn cameras on officers for almost two years and is convinced that there is a legitimate use for the technology.
Departments that have used them have found a decrease in complaints of officer misconduct, use-of-force incidents and unfounded and frivolous lawsuits. Also, deadly-force encounters were more thoroughly reviewed and investigated, training opportunities were enhanced and evidence collection and crime-scene processing improved. Officers who were falsely accused of improper conduct were cleared quicker and returned to service sooner, resulting in documented and dramatic outcomes are well worth the investment in cameras.
But the report ultimately found that the “perceived benefits that body-worn cameras offer—capturing a video recording of critical incidents and encounters with the public, strengthening police accountability, and providing a valuable new type of evidence—largely outweigh the potential drawbacks.”