This year, there have been numerous accounts of excessive police force across the country. A Miami police officer swatted a puppy out of a young kid’s hands before wrestling the 14-year old to the ground, a Tallahassee women sustained a broken eye socket after city police slammed her face into the back of a cop car, and there’s the incident where police in Hawthorne, CA shot a man’s dog.
To combat this problem, cities and counties haven’t been harshening penalties for officer misconduct or even instituting more focused training. Police departments all over have started placing body cameras on police officers to maintain a constant and accurate level of oversight. The most recent is Duluth, MN.
After three years of trial runs, the Duluth Police Department has plans to invest $80,000 into the endeavor and “take the technology full-scale.”
“We’re on the cusp of a new thing,” said Police Chief Gordon Ramsay. “We’re a fairly large department, and this is a fairly big project.”
Ramsay notes, however, that other police departments have been reluctant to implement the technology because of price and maintenance costs of the cameras. But Ramsay thinks that using police body cameras could actually offset the high startup costs.
“The value will be reduced cost for things like officers having to go to court to testify or potential lawsuits,” said Ramsay. “Just having that evidence could prevent a lot of cases from going to trial.”
Some could argue that body cameras are an invasion of privacy, but really, they will offer a more objective account of what happens at crime scenes, rather than skewed testimony from suspects and officers alike. The American Civil Liberties Union, who is staunchly against any sort of privacy invasion actually endorses police body cameras.
The ACLU released a statement earlier this month proclaiming its support of police body cameras, provided that departments follow a “proper policy framework.” They said that the technology will be successful and fair to citizens as long as police keep them running during an entire shift, cannot edit the footage, and there should be a short shelf life on unflagged videos.
As far as effectiveness of the tool, studies have proven the effectiveness of police body cameras in the field. Last year, researchers with the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge conducted the study on the Rialto, CA police from February 2012 until this past July. With only half of the officers were equipped with body cameras, officer complaints fell 88 percent and the Rialto’s officers’ use of force dropped 60 percent.
Other cities looking to implement police body cameras are Ft. Collins, CO, which recently planned a plan to phase in the use over the next five years, and New Orleans, whose police force is renowned for its defectiveness, are in talks of implementing the cameras.
“I think there’s a lot a potential for good,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York ACLU. “There’s nothing like video to allow people to believe something they might otherwise not be able to accept as possible.”