The Fallout From Ferguson: Do Police Body Cameras Work
Barak Ariel, a criminologist at the University of Cambridge, isnt so sure about body cameras, either.
The technology is surely promising, but we dont know that its working, Ariel told me. The Food and Drug Administration doesnt approve drugs until theyve been studied extensively, he explained, and governments should take a similar approach with body-worn cameras. Its a solution that has yet to be proven.
The results in Rialto have been cited in the media as proof that police body cameras work. But Rialto isnt reproducible the world over. As Ariel and his fellow researchers note, the citys police department is relatively small, and the police chief directly oversaw the experiment. Likewise, success in the U.K., where one person was killed by police in 2012, doesnt necessarily translate to success in the U.S., where at least 410 people were killed by police that same year.
Where To Buy The Equipment
If you need to buy equipment, there are a number of manufacturers and distributors. Following is a sample list of providers:
Amazon.com Amazon.com offers an extensive collection of body cams and is probably the easiest place to buy from. However, they are not an official supplier to police departments. . Prices range from $100 to $400.
CopsPlus.com CopsPlus.com offers the PFB1000 1080p Prima Facie 32 GB Body Camera. This unit clips directly onto the officers uniform and allows them to record footage in high-definition. This device offers 32MB of memory storage. When we last checked, these ran about $730 per unit.
L3 Mobile Vision, Inc. L3 provides a body-worn product called BodyVision. Their product allows officers to easily and quickly download data and captured video, manage devices and search by case. They offer software and cloud-based options. This particular solution provides five hours of high-definition recording capability and has a 72° field of view. Search captured clips by date, car, officer, and more. The company also has a number of other excellent solutions. For example, systems for cars and motorcycles, tablets, license plate recognition tools, and digital evidence management solutions.
TASER® International Inc. TASER is one of the largest providers of video equipment and stun guns to law enforcement divisions in America. They provide a wide range of video devices that span from $400 to $700 each.
Where Does All That Video Go
“These cameras produce a vast amount of data that has to be stored securely,” Michael White, an Arizona State University criminology professor, told NBC News. “Video storage is the biggest issue that police departments are dealing with.”
Police departments can either store that video on their own servers or pay a monthly fee for cloud-based storage.
Taser offers access to Amazon-powered Evidence.com, a cloud service that lets police officers easily share video with district attorneys and other law enforcement agencies.
“You are taking this digital tsunami of information and putting it into the cloud without the law enforcement agency having to deal with firewalls, enterprise services and spending lots of money to buy hard drives,” Tuttle said.
While some devices need to be connected via USB to download video, the Axon cameras send data automatically when connected to their Internet-connected battery charger.
Finding space to store all of that video is one challenge, being able to find the footage later is another. Officers need to be very careful about labeling each clip with information like the date and incident number, said White, or actually locating the footage during a court case could be very difficult.
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How Long Will The Body Camera Data Be Stored For
The laws regarding how long video and audio evidence recording using a body camera must be stored will vary from state to state. Law enforcement agencies are advised to consult with their local prosecutors and legal counsel when they are designing their data storage policies.
Any recordings that depict a critical incident or an arrest will usually need to be stored for an extended period of time. Some agencies will choose to store this type of evidence for as long as the period of time a member of the public has to file a complaint against an officer. For example, if community members have six months after an interaction with an officer to file a complaint, it may be important to store any video evidence for six months so it can be reviewed to assist with the investigation.
Some agencies separate body-worn camera recordings into two categories, evidentiary and non-evidentiary, and the length recordings are retained for will be determined by how they are classified.
Evidentiary recordings are those that depict things such as arrests, use of force and homicide, and can be used in a criminal investigation. These videos will usually be stored for months or even years, while non-evidentiary videos will usually be stored for 60-90 days. For transparency, most law departments will share their retention policies on their web site.
Why Do Law Enforcement Agencies Choose To Use Body
Law enforcement agencies who use body-worn cameras argue that by wearing these devices, they can improve community trust, accountability, and transparency. In addition, they can provide an additional layer of safety for the suspect and the attending officer.
In addition, video and audio recordings gained from body-worn cameras can assist with the prosecution of criminal cases, as well as assisting with complaints made against law enforcement officers .
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How Police Bodycams Work And How They Fall Short
Auto-recording and livestreaming features may help, but experts say the problems with body-worn cameras go beyond the tech.
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Today’s top-of-the-line bodycams don’t require a law enforcement officer to press record. Video can be automatically captured when a siren is activated — or when a weapon is drawn. And footage can be livestreamed back to commanders in real time, aiding with accountability and with assistance in the field.
That level of tech isn’t widely adopted yet by police nationally, though departments are taking a closer look in light of ongoing protests calling for police reform. Political leaders are under pressure to address police brutality and racial bias in law enforcement, and more governments are turning to body cameras as a solution.
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Reduction In The Rate Of Complaints
The first and foremost benefit is the drastic reduction in the number of charges and altercations police officers face. According to Ron Miller, the Chief of Kansas Police, everyone is on their best behavior when the camera is running, the Police, the people, everyone!! The body-worn cameras record the real-time happenings, and officers can be free from false allegations of misconduct.
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Overview Of Police Body Cameras
The cameras are tiny portable devices that can be easily mounted on sunglasses, clipped to hats or helmets, or attached to uniform collars or lapels. The base of the recording device is wired and attached to the officers uniform and sits concealed in a pocket.
Officers must wear the cams throughout their shifts. The batteries last for approximately 12 ½ hours. The devices are capable of recording high-quality video, even in situations where there is low light or complete darkness, such as in interior spaces or at night.
What Does The Latest Research Indicate About The Effectiveness Of Body Cameras
Early interest in body cameras stemmed from concern about excessive use of force and how race factored into police encounters, Headley said. However, the research on these areas is limited, she added.
According to Headley, there isnt published research on how body cameras affect racial disparities in policing. Theres nothing that really looks at that race aspect, which to me is almost baffling.
Lawrence of the Justice Policy Center said research indicates overall improvement in civilian satisfaction with officers who wear body cameras, but he has not found specific data comparing that satisfaction among different racial groups.
And when it comes to how cameras affect use of force, recent studies are more mixed than the Rialto report, Lawrence said. Later studies were larger and more rigorous, and indicated that the presence of body-worn cameras has minimal effect as a deterrent.
A 2017 study in Washington, D.C., that examined more than 2,000 officers also found body cameras had a negligible effect on officer behavior. These results suggest that we should recalibrate our expectations of ability to induce large-scale behavioral changes in policing, the paper stated.
A 2018 study of 504 officers in the Milwaukee Police Department, conducted by Lawrence and other Urban Institute researchers, found that body cameras had no effect on the likelihood officers would use force in the course of their duties.
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Do Police Officers Want To Wear Cameras
For the police, there are pros and cons to being on camera. On the upside, having a video of what actually occurred can protect them from false complaints and accusations. The camera also shows what the officer must deal with, for example, when handling an intoxicated person who has become violent. On the downside, body cams prevent officers from using discretion. If a teenager is out half an hour after curfew but on his way home, the officer may not have the option to give a verbal warning and send the child home.
How Can Police Videos Affect A Criminal Trial
It is likely that any recent interactions you have had with law enforcement are on camera. Police video could help your defense in certain situations, including:
- Proving that an officers statement was false: If the arresting officer makes a false statement in his report about what occurred, a camera recording with audio and video that shows exactly what happened can be used to dispute that statement.
- Showing something the officer failed to do: Police are required to follow certain specific procedures in criminal matters such as making arrests or handling evidence. If the officer failed to follow any of these procedures as required, it could be grounds to have your case dismissed.
- Establishing your innocence: If you were accused of something you did not do, a recording of what transpired could serve as evidence to help prove your innocence. For example, if resisting arrest was added to your charges when you were actually cooperating, a body cam recording could show what actually occurred, and your attorney could use the evidence to get that charge dismissed.
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Interacting With Police Officers In Florida Who Wear Body Cameras
If you are arrested or pulled over in Florida, you have the right to ask the police officer if their body camera is switched on and ask them to turn it on if they say no. You can ask the police officer to switch their body camera off, but they can refuse to comply with this request. Following an arrest, you can request the body camera footage so that you and your defense attorney can prepare for court and any other legal situations.
Remember, body-worn cameras can be used to uncover the truth interactions between police officers and members of the public, and you always have the right to ask an officer about their body camera. Ultimately the purpose of body-worn cameras is to ensure that officers do not take advantage of members of the public.
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Theres been increased attention surrounding police officers and how they can provide a transparent view to the public of their interactions with civilians — especially after two recent police shootings in Wethersfield and New Haven.
Protesters, community leaders, and family members of victims want to see video footage captured by police departments involved in the shootings.
Law enforcement obtain video evidence of confrontations primarily via dashboard cameras and body cameras worn by officers.
Not all police departments use body cameras, and each town can choose its own system. We wanted to see how a body camera works in practice, so we asked the Madison Police Department to give us a demonstration of their system.
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How Does Law Enforcement Feel About Body Cameras
The initial push for body cameras met some criticism from departments and police unions.
The Boston Police Patrolmens Association in 2016 sued Boston city administrators in an effort to stop a pilot program mandating body cameras for 100 officers. The union cited increased risk of harm to officers based on a study indicating that officers in the U.S. and U.K. who were wearing body cameras were 15 percent more likely to be assaulted.
Three body camera researchers told the NewsHour that while they are familiar with this study, they have not found similar results in other research. A Massachusetts judge rejected the unions request to delay the body camera program in Boston.
Other police agencies have resisted body cameras because of the costs, according to BJS reports. The Police Executive Research Forum said in a 2018 report that the Dallas Police Department had deployed about 1,000 cameras to cover 30 percent of its officers. Purchase costs per camera were about $189, but maintenance and storage for the thousands of hours of video footage amounted to $789 per camera for one year. In addition to other administrative staff costs, the annual cost in Dallas was $1,125 per camera, about $1.1 million in total.
Will Police Body Cameras Work
Theoretically, a body camera can tell us what really happened. Condemn or exonerate an officer based on unbiased, visual data.
But there are several glitches, the first being that officers don’t necessarily turn them on. The North Tonawanda police department in New York requires that officers wear body cameras, but police union contracts require that recording with them be optional . During a six-month body-camera trial in Denver, officers captured only 25 percent of their use-of-force interactions .
Another problem is that video footage isn’t really unbiased. A body-camera recording doesn’t show the scene it shows the officer’s view of the scene. And even then it may not show everything. A collar-mounted camera doesn’t follow an officer’s eyes as they move. Few of the models have wide-angle lenses that match the human visual field .
Finally, video evidence is ultimately open to interpretation. Studies have shown that factors like gender, cultural background and even where one focuses one’s eyes can affect how someone interprets video footage . In 2014, members of a New York grand jury saw cell-phone footage of an officer holding an unarmed, prone man in a chokehold, the man repeatedly gasping “I can’t breathe,” until he died. They ultimately decided not to indict the officer for a crime. Others very clearly saw a criminal act .
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A Requirement In Two States
Only two states, Nevada and South Carolina, require all law enforcement agencies to use the cameras. Both states have faced challenges in reaching universal compliance.
In Nevada, former Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval signed measures to mandate body cameras for the state highway patrol in 2015 and all law enforcement agencies in 2017. To help cover the cost, the law allowed county governments to increase 9-1-1 surcharges on phone bills.
But Nevadas use of 9-1-1 fees was criticized in a December report from the Federal Communications Commission. The fees are supposed to be used for 9-1-1 related services, according to the commission.
Law enforcement agencies in Nevada were given a deadline of July 2018 to start using body- worn cameras, but some departments didnt get the equipment until nearly a year later. The law didnt include a penalty for not getting cameras, and its possible that some departments still dont have them, according to a spokeswoman for the states public safety department.
In South Carolina, then-Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, signed a law to make body cameras a requirement for police in 2015. But the devices arent everywhere in the state yet.
The law had a caveat: The cameras would be required when the state fully funded the programs.
We supported the idea of body-worn cameras and understood how important they were, Slatton said.
How Body Cameras Can Be Good For The Prosecutor
The state will use body cameras as a secret weapon in court. Body cameras are capable of capturing all video and audio from an event and sometimes reveal details that were omitted from the police report at the time of the arrest. A defendants actions will be scrutinized. For example, if they are continuously cursing or yelling, the prosecutor will use this to tell a story of their character in court. This is why we advise that you remain calm, polite, and respectful when interacting with a police officer so that the body camera recordings cannot be used against you at trial.
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How Do Law Enforcement Agencies Handle The Data That Is Collected By Officer Body
Most law enforcement agencies that use body-worn cameras store the data that is collected onsite. This means that the agency must purchase a data storage system to store, retrieve, and share any video and audio evidence that is recorded using body cameras. Each agency is required to follow the policies and laws that relate to evidence collection.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police sets out specific guidelines that all agencies should take into account if they choose to work with a third-party vendor for their cloud-based data storage, for example:
- The vendors system must comply with the FBIs Criminal Justice Information Services Policy .
- The law enforcement agency should have ownership of the data that is stored.
- The vendor should not be permitted to share or view the data without the agencys consent.
- The agency should have the ability to conduct its own audits of the vendors cloud system.
- The agency should consult with the IACP before they agree to a contract with a third-party vendor.