Body Worn Video Steering Group
PoliceOne recently issued a poll to its community of police officers within recent months, and the results reflect a bright future for body worn video cameras; which has been a growing tool within the global police community ever since its conception. After several high profile incidents within those years many have been asking what body worn video can do to help the enforcement of law.
Decision makers and officers on patrol alike can be hesitant to join the ranks of the thousands globally already making use of the technology, stemming from concerns about changes to protocol and policy, the financial responsibility, training and unforeseen issues that only trial and error will bring to light.
Polling nearly 1,500 PoliceOne Facebook fans to find out what thoughts and concerns the law enforcement community has today about body cameras. Here’s what was learned:
1. Only 21.9 percent of those surveyed neither have body cameras nor have any plans of getting them in the future, meaning almost 80 percent of law enforcement officials polled either have body-worn cameras, are testing them currently or are looking into them.
Officers who answered that every officer was equipped with a camera (14.8 percent) came from agencies of all sizes, but the majority of those polled come from an agency of 26-100 officers (26.7 percent) or from an agency of 500 or more (25.6 percent).
2. When asked what the biggest concern is for officers regarding body cameras, 33.7 percent of those polled answered “A lack of privacy for the officers wearing them,” making it the most popular response.
Another 28.7 percent believed body cameras pose a physical liability – making storage and maintenance costs the smallest concerns of officers.
The rest of those polled, who answered “other,” believe there were more drawbacks to consider:
“Invasion of privacy for people who call the police. Just because somebody needs help, doesn’t mean they want their home, family, personal items, etc, videotaped and on record.” – Officer in an agency of 500 + officers.
“Ability for public to “arm chair quarterback” decisions officers have to make in the heat of the moment.” – Officer in an agency of 26-100 officers.
“Becoming too worried about camera activation and that [worry] taking away from officer safety. Officers have a tendency to worry more about IA than safety at times.” – Officer in an agency of 101-250 officers.
3. Over 71 percent of poll-takers agreed that a body camera equipped to the torso versus the glasses was preferable.
4. 67.7 percent of those polled said despite some of the drawbacks, they would equip their department with body cameras if the decision was up to them.
Below are some of the responses as to why officers would or would not give all officers body cameras:
Surveyors who answered ‘No’ to question 4:
“Courts will expect video footage of incidents. When no footage is available the officer’s integrity and the case will be put into question.” – Officer in a dept. of 26-100, all have body cameras
“Report writing just became more cumbersome: the written report better reflect exactly what the camera recorded. However what is recorded does not equate with what the officer perceives.” – Officer in dept. of 26-100, all have body cameras
“When technology improves and auto ‘on’ and proper memory and storage and wireless functionality is there THEN we will consider using them. I pity the first officer with a body camera who forgets to turn it on or is shot because their decision to turn on the camera slowed their application of force” – Officer in dept. of 26-100 without body cameras
Surveyors who answered ‘Yes’ to question 4:
“The video evidence adds to officer accountability, vindicating us and showing the public that officers are performing their jobs in the most extreme circumstances and to the highest levels of professionalism.” – Officer in dept. of 500 + without body cameras
“It makes the department transparent and would eliminate 90% of the unfounded complaints from the citizens and not waste the officers time with such complaints. It would also give perspective to use of force situations, but it should not be relied on solely in place of the officers testimony.” – Officer in dept. of 500+ with some body cameras
“Video footage is much more likely to get a cop out of trouble than in trouble. Officers get false accusations thrown at them all the time. Video is a great equalizer.” – Officer In dept. of 1-25 without body cameras