They are becoming more prevalent with police departments — body cameras. But not every police department across the country has them, which can lead to frustration for those who want to hold law enforcement accountable and only have hearsay to go off of.
Wearable, modern police body cameras were initially launched in the United Kingdom in 2005, although some departments began exploring wearable cameras in the late 1990s. It wasn’t until 2014 that body cameras were found in many United States police departments.
Today, nearly two-thirds of all states (and Washington, D.C.) have legislation allowing police body cameras to be worn. However, that doesn’t mean that each police department in those states has accessibility or desire to wear body cameras.
The Cons of Body Cameras
For some police departments, there are concerns about the cost, effectiveness, and added responsibility of body cameras.
This is usually one of the first scrutinies from police departments. An individual average body camera can cost between $450-$650. That price doesn’t include accessories or other necessities needed. Each camera also needs to be replaced about every five years.
For some departments, the overall cost to equip all officers with body cameras can be millions of dollars. That’s in addition to training costs and maintenance of the equipment.
Many taxpayers choose not to pay more in taxes, even when equipment like body cameras would be bought with the extra funds. This puts pressure on police departments to do more with less and meet the high expectation of professionalism that typically comes with law enforcement.
Many believe that body cameras give an exact look at everything that is going on from a law enforcement officer’s perspective. While this is true to an extent, the camera does not give a 360-degree view of what is happening around the officer and only gives a partial view of what the officer is seeing and doing. This could lead to disputes about what actually was happening at the time of an incident especially if an officer did not catch a specific action on camera.
It takes a mental toll on an officer to remember to turn on their camera if they don’t have it on already while responding to a call. Additionally, the officer could be reprimanded for not having the camera on which adds extra pressure on that officer.
Responsibility also falls on the police department to release footage from body cameras if an incident of public interest occurs. This occurs if states have open-record laws which most states that allow body cameras do have.
As outlined, the cost, effectiveness, and responsibility, or a combination of the three, are usually the main reasons why some police departments do not have body cameras.
The Pros of Body Cameras
For police departments that do require officers to wear body cameras, there have been some positive results. The most prominent result is the transparency of police interactions with individuals. If a police department requires body cameras, and there is a dispute between what an officer said or did, law enforcement officials can go back to the footage to get a better understanding of what actually happened.
Another goal of police body cameras is to promote transparency within the community. For some police departments, if there is an open-record policy, footage of an incident could be shown to the public less than 24 hours after an event. No matter how high-profile or severe an incident might be, being able to provide body camera footage quickly can squash any potential allegations or bring to light any potential misconduct.
If you or a loved one encountered police misconduct — whether it was caught on camera or not — the lawyers at HDR Law are here for you. Law enforcement should be upheld to the law just as anyone else and you have a right to fight charges if you were treated unfairly. Our experienced attorneys are ready to work on your case — reach out online or call (720) 547-9211.