Body Worn Video Steering Group
Body worn video cameras are being increasingly called upon across the United States. Several states have introduced laws which require the use of these cameras, including California.
Body worn video cameras have been sparked off by the debate of many incidents. Many know of the discussion around Ferguson, Missouri however Los Angeles was the centre of another incident in which an unarmed black man was fatally shot during an altercation with the police.
This incident fuelled protests and added extra pressure to the already tense atmosphere between officers and the communities they serve. California also had the highest number of police officers who were killed in the line of duty in 2014.
Dr. Shirley Weber introduced a bill which would prepare the state for broader implementation of police body worn video cameras. Weber wanted to create a clear path forward and would “develop guidelines so that these cameras are both effective – given the public investment involved – and that they are not overly intrusive in the lives of everyday citizens.”
The Department of Justice’s office on Community Oriented Policing Services released a report which found a 60% reduction in the number of use-of-force incident when body worn video cameras were used. An 88% reduction in the number of citizen complaints between the year prior to camera implementation and the year following deployment was also found in the study.
Weber is keen to point out that the camera implementation is critical in order to decrease tension. She states, “If they are to be used, they need to be used in a way that increases trust rather than undermine it further.”
Other American states are heading down the same path, however questions still remain as to how the cameras can be used to protect the privacy of both police officers and civilians. In Washington, dozens of police encounters have been posted to YouTube due to the state’s Freedom of Information Act Laws, which were written long before body worn cameras existed.
Weber believes the best way to resolve these issues is a substantive discussion with everyone.
“Having a continued frank dialogue around issues of public safety and race is monumentally important for California. We’ve started in the Legislature by revisiting sentencing guidelines that in practice target certain populations and looking at other factors contributing to their over-representation in our corrections and juvenile justice systems. Obviously, there is much more to do.”
“Clearly, we see the use of body cameras as an important step toward accountability and re-establishing trust between law enforcement and communities of colour,” Weber said. “We need to ensure that they are used effectively and responsibly.”