Police body cams have been embraced by departments all across the nation to protect both civilians and officers. In some cases, it’s a move that’s proven very effective. For instance, when the use of body cameras in the Rialto, California Police Department was evaluated, a 60% drop in use of force by officers was reported. At the same time, many police departments have found that these cameras dramatically eliminated false reports and complaints against officers.
But now, a new type of recording technology has emerged, and it’s captured the attention of several police forces: gun cameras.
These cameras would be mounted on officers’ weapons, rather than on their bodies. In some ways, gun and weapons cameras would be a bit more limited than body cameras, since they would start to record only when a weapon is pulled from its holster. Body and dash cameras record no matter what, which allows events leading up to a confrontation to be captured on video evidence. These gun cameras would be missing that vital component, so it’s likely that they would need to be used in conjunction with, rather than in replacement of, body cams and dash cams.
However, gun cameras might be appealing to departments for other reasons. The view from a body cam can be potentially obstructed by walls, body parts, and other objects in certain circumstances. A gun camera would provide a non-obstructed view that could help put the pieces of an incident together (though again, only if a weapon is drawn).
Another benefit for some departments is the potential cost savings. Some officials say that because body cameras require a storage component, they quickly become a huge expense for larger departments. Gun cameras, on the other hand, would likely become the individual officer’s responsibility. For departments looking to get more out of their budgets, this could be a cost-effective option.
However, many civil rights groups are skeptical about gun cameras, especially if they were to replace body cams. Because they won’t record everything that leads up to an incident, that missing context could leave an event wide open to interpretation.
As Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberty Union’s speech, privacy, and technology project told Newsweek, “I think most communities are going to want body cameras, not gun cameras, because police fortunately draw they guns very rarely.”
At present, gun cameras do pose some interesting possibilities. Used together with other types of police cams, they could help provide a more complete view of these kinds of situations. But used on their own, they might end up providing more questions than answers.
For now, this technology remains more of an interesting idea than a practical technology.