Body Worn Video Steering Group
The Harvard Law Review is a student-run organization whose primary purpose is to publish a journal of legal scholarship. In this article the focus is on police body cameras, drawing upon recent events, proposed legislation, research, and analysis.
In the early 2000’s body cameras were initially met with suspicion from both police and public. Fast-forward to the shocking events of summer 2014 where a young black male was shot and communities erupted in waves of protest against the police both sides now demand body cameras on their streets.
This leads us to ask what types of crime are typically caught on camera, and what results video evidence has been able to produce in the pursuit of justice.
It is estimated by the end of 2016 over 30,000 body cameras will be in use across the United Kingdom, and by next year 1 in 5 police officers will record each interaction with the public marking the next frontier of policing and creating a promise to cut crime on our streets by 10%.
Body worn video (BWV) is not the panacea for policing, a senior figure at the Independent Police Complaints Commission has warned.
Speaking to delegates at the Police Federation conference, IPCC Commissioner Carl Gumsley cautiously welcomed officers wearing BWV to film incidents, but he stressed the camera was ‘not a panacea’.
“It is a tool, not a complete solution,” he added.
A Republican-controlled Congress approved a $51 billion measure providing the Justice Department and NASA with modest budget hikes, but the legislation falls well short of what’s needed to win President Barack Obama’s signature.
The measure cuts back Obama’s request for police body cameras and new community policing initiatives.
BWC Legislation overview by Rich Williams, NCSL
In the wake of recent riots around the nation, the Department of Justice is preparing to equip an additional 50,000 law enforcement officers with body-worn cameras. As an officer who has been wearing a body camera for the last 18 months, I can testify that these cameras provide numerous benefits for both law enforcement and the public.
However, body cameras come with limitations and drawbacks as well. And as more officers begin wearing these cameras, the public needs to know what to realistically expect.
Bill Bratton, Commissioner of the New York Police Department has openly stated that citizens filming police to monitor their behaviour can actually be conducive to “agitating the situations”. As police body cameras have sought to establish trusts within communities, organised groups such as Cop Watch have been accused of being intrusive and preventing officers from performing their duties.
“We don’t think it would be right to equip every police officer with such a camera,” Police Union (GdP) leader Oliver Malchow said on Friday in response to questions about the latest US police shooting in South Carolina.
He argued that it makes sense to limit the use of cameras, as they wouldn’t only record police officers’ actions, but also citizens’ behaviour.