Police body-worn cameras are becoming a common feature in departments across the country. Not only do these cameras increase department transparency with the public and decrease public complaints but they help keep officers safe while on duty. Of course, not every department has implemented body-worn cameras due to both department and public hesitancy. However, for the departments that are considering or have begun adopting the new technology, there are a few tips that could help make the transition smooth.
When creating your new department policy for body cams, you should clearly state who will be wearing them. It may not make sense for you to implement the tech department-wide right from the start and there might be some personnel that don't need to wear them at all. It might be helpful to begin your adoption by having only a select few officers wear the cameras, such as the units who interact with the public the most.
Your department might find that the best method of implementation is to have officers volunteer to wear the body cameras. While this can be beneficial, there should still be clearly defined situations in which an officer is required to wear one. For instance, your department might require an officer to wear a body camera if they have had multiple complaints filed against them or they are on an assignment which might benefit from the use of body-worn cameras.
While it might seem like a good idea to let officers wear their own body cameras that they've purchased, it is generally a problematic move. Since the department wouldn't have any legal right to the footage recorded, there is a high possibility of something going wrong, such as an officer tampering with the footage or a non-sanction release to the public.
Body cameras can be extremely beneficial to both the public and the department. In a Pew Research Center survey, 50% of officers stated that they would act more appropriately if they were equipped with body cameras. However, it's important for departments to create a thorough and clearly defined implementation policy.