Far Outweighing The Cost: How Everyone Benefits From Police Body Cameras
According to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, about 66% of officers and 93% of the public favor officers' use of body cameras to record interactions with citizens. While police body camera costs can add up, they have become central to police departments across the United States. The use of body cameras for law enforcement has two major benefits: keeping everyone involved in a dispute accountable, and recording first-hand evidence.
Holding Everyone Accountable
As with any argument between two people, a dispute between a police officer and a citizen can turn into a he-said, she-said situation. On the one side the citizen may be trying to dodge the trouble they caused or crime they committed, and on the other, the officer may be trying to cover their tracks to ensure their job security. Body cams are essential in these situations as they give a clear, unbiased picture of what happened. There have been proven cases in which body cameras were used to catch one side in a lie. In Texas, a police officer shot an unarmed youth and initially stated that the scene played out one way, but after reviewing the footage the department was able to see that the actual scene did not match up with the officer's statement and charged him with murder. In San Diego, body cam footage helped exonerate officers falsely accused of misconduct because the department was able to see the scene as it actually happened.
Collecting Timely Evidence
Police body camera costs are also offset by the quality of the evidence they collect. In domestic violence cases, there tends to be a lack of physical evidence, and if the victim does not want to testify against their abuser -- as is often the case -- then prosecutors have almost nothing to use in court. When the police are called in for these cases, they can record the victim with their consent, giving them first-hand footage of the victim's injuries, demeanor, and initial reactions that they can use later. In a similar vein, body cameras can record the first-hand evidence after an accident instead of conflicting reports from witnesses and victims when they're asked to recall the scene later. The cameras capture details of the scene as the officer walks around, as well as the initial interviews they conduct with the witnesses.
To level the playing field between all members, police departments need body cameras. According to a YouGov poll, 55% of Americans are willing to pay more in taxes to offset police body camera costs, hopefully indicating to departments everywhere that the public is willing to actively support body cameras in law enforcement.