Body Cameras On Security Officers?

The year of 2014 called into question many security measures that are currently in place for personal protection of citizens and officers during tragic events. From the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager who was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer, the nation gained a sense of concern for the relationship between officers and citizens in areas of high crime. The vent spurred thousands of protests around the nation demanding that justice be served.

In response, the White House announced in December 2014 that President Obama would allocate $263 million for a three-year program aimed at improving training for local law enforcements and upgrade necessary equipment. One of the budgeted improvements includes $75 million that would go towards the investment of acquiring 50,000 body-mounted cameras for officers. The program is modeled after the Justice Department’s Bulletproof Vest Partnership program which helps law enforcement buy vests for officers, a program that is up for renewal from Congress.

The idea of implementing body-worn cameras for officers have long been in the works even before the occurrence of the Michael Brown incident. In fact, House Representative Frank A. LoBiondo of New Jersey suggested a similar proposal in 2013 but the proposal was never selected for review by the House Judiciary Committee.

The idea is for the cameras to offer personal protection for both officers and the public while providing an operational transparency of law enforcement. Additionally, the White House believe the cameras will offer a way to amend the mistrust between law enforcement and the public. The usage of the cameras can also help resolve disputes, particularity disputes between officers and witnesses and possible “he said, she said” situations.

Law enforcement have a different opinion on the matter. Many officer struggle with the idea of carrying cameras while on duty. In a yearlong study conducted by Chief Tony Farrer of Rialto, California to evaluate the use of body-worn cameras, many officers were not keen on the idea. The idea of having “big brother” watch their every move makes them uncomfortable. Another concern is the possible misuse of footage retrieved from the cameras.

Public opinion on the matter varies. According to a public poll on isidewith.com, 70% of those who voted believe that officers should be required to wear body cameras but 30% voted against it. Those who support the usage of cameras believe it will protect the safety and rights of officers and citizens. The main opposing argument come about questions about privacy and officer discretion about the use of the footage that is obtained.

The program hopes to limit the negative connotation that is associated with the law enforcement in specific areas. The goal of such programs would ultimately improve public safety in cities like Miami and New York, where crime rate tend to be high.

However, since the mention of a body-worn cameras for law enforcement last December, President Obama made no mention of the program during his annual State of the Union address in January. Although, the program is expected to be part of the fiscal 2016 budget request policing plan due on February 2; there is no set implementation date. Even cities like Seattle, who have planned to implement their own policy to have body cameras have made the decision to put the policy on hold for issues on privacy.

In the case of federal implementation, it is all up to Congress’ approval. One would need to remember that the proposed executive order is not without protest. Congress has a partisan divide among political parties along with civil rights groups and police organizations opposing legislative action. Many Republican-led Judiciary panels at Congress have been quiet on the situation—saying nothing in regards to the legislation or whether they support it. Another major reasoning for delay is funding. The funding proposed will only supply cameras to a small fraction of officers and if desired to equip more officers would mean increasing the funding for the program.

References

  1. Anderson, J. (2015). Democrats plan police body-camera legislation. Roll Call. Retrieved from http://www.rollcall.com/news/democrats_plan_police_body_camera_legislation-239551-1.html
  2. Mims, C. (2014). What happens when police officers wear body cameras. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/what-happens-when-police-officers-wear-body-cameras-1408320244
  3. Pickler, N. (2014). Obama proposes body-worn cameras for police. Associated Press. PBS Newshour. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/obama-proposes-body-worn-cameras-police/
  4. Scott, A. (2014). Views you can use: Obama calls for more police body cameras. U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2014/12/02/obama-requests-funding-for-50-000-police-body-cameras-pundits-react
  5. “Should police officers be required to wear body cameras?” (2014). Isidewith.com. Retrieved from http://www.isidewith.com/poll/625747374
  6. Sullivan, J. (2015). Hit ‘pause’ on police body-cam decision, panel says. The Seattle Times. Retrieved from http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2025696342_bodycameradelayxml.html
  7. Stross, R. (2013). Wearing a badge, and a video camera. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/business/wearable-video-cameras-for-police-officers.html?_r=1&
  8. Wilson, R. (2015). Police accountability measures flood state legislatures. The Washington Post. Standard Examiner. Retrieved from http://www.standard.net/Police/2015/02/07/Police-accountability-measures-flood-state-legislatures-after-Ferguson-Staten-Island
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