Francis Folz | United States
On February 6th of this year, it was made public that the NYPD will be making body cams part of the standard uniform for its nearly 40,000 officers. This is good news since the use of body cams holds law enforcement accountable for their actions in uniform. It also largely removes the “my word against yours” aspect of police misconduct claims.
Claims of criminal conduct by our police are widespread. American police are far more lethal than other developed nations per capita. American police, on average, take over one thousand civilian lives a year. In light of these facts, we must ask ourselves how come all police officers aren’t wearing body cams?
After all, we have the technology and the resources to make it happen feasibly. So why wouldn’t Americans want an extra layer of accountability for its public officials? Police wearing body cams make very practical sense for both the interests of the police and the public.
Preventing Escalation of Force
Police Officers do their job better when they know someone is watching. After all, it allows for scrutiny of one’s performance. Is it any coincidence then that in Rialto, California when officers were randomly assigned body cams to wear during their shifts, the amount of use-of-force incidents (when a baton, taser, or weapon is deployed) decreased by half and the number of excessive force complaints dropped by almost 90 percent?
Body Cams as a Witness
Benefits of the Officer’s Perspective
Body cams provide a recollection of account through the eyes of the officer. This is invaluable in determining if an officer wielded an excessive amount of force. In a trial, It is the jury’s duty to decide if an officer’s judgment was reasonable. Footage of an incident taken from an officer’s POV provides jurors the ability to step into an officer’s shoes. This benefits the officer immensely, so long as they did the right thing.
Benefits to the Public
Additionally, the American public benefits from police wearing body cams, by allowing display of proof on their behalf as well. Just this week, an entire police department was suspended in Oklahoma after disturbing footage showed officers raiding an innocent family, pointing an AR-15 in the face of a small child, tearing a baby from a mother’s hands, and threatening the mother and father of the household. Luckily, the officers were wearing body cams, presenting the chance for the family and the public to receive justice.
However, others are not as fortunate. In January of 2018, an unarmed teenage boy was shot by a police officer right outside a juvenile courtroom. According to the local news reports, the officer grabbed the kid and tackled him to the ground. He was on top of the child when he shot him. According to the Sheriff’s Office, the surveillance footage from the courthouse didn’t provide a clear view of the incident. The officer was not wearing a body cam.
The use of body cams enhances our ability to hold our public officials accountable. It also protects police officers from false accusations. The Spokane Police Department surveyed their residents and found that 97 percent of them supported making body cams standard uniform. It is time for all of America’s police departments to make the same move towards increased accountability.
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