American Military University Professor Shares Benefits and Best Practices for Police
The implementation and feasibility of department issued body worn video cameras has begun for some, as others consider bring the technology to their own. Dr Christopher McFarlin is the Criminal Justice Department director at the American Military University and writes how many law enforcement officers, as well as general public, have voiced concerns over body worn video:
Officer Concerns and Benefits
Many current law enforcement officers have mixed opinions about strapping on a body camera for work.
On one hand: Many officers are concerned that cameras are stationary and not 360° panning. This causes concern that the camera will not adequately capture all the elements of an encounter that cause an officer to react.
On the other hand: During the course of a career just about every officer experiences the profanity-laced, legal dissertation from the “I know my rights” suspect. It can be incredibly frustrating to arrive in court to find a defendant dressed professionally in a suit with an angelic demeanor that’s completely opposite of the person who was arrested. Using cameras to capture that person’s true character and behavior can be very beneficial when it comes to prosecution.
Additionally, a camera is an unbiased witness. Notwithstanding the difference of interpretations and biases, the camera will only add to the amount of evidence that law enforcement can bring to court. Officers should think of it as a way to bring the judge and jury to the streets with them.
After implementing body-worn cameras, many agencies have seen a dramatic drop in complaints against officers. Moreover, cameras have been credited for immediately neutralizing the defiant attitudes and criminal orientations of suspects when they realize they are being recorded for evidentiary purposes. Officers should keep in mind that, as long as they have not created a custodial environment, suspects often don’t know when to remain silent!