Policing The Police With Cameras

by Dish Staff

Nick Gillespie wants to make cops wear recording devices:

While there is no simple fix to race relations in any part of American life, there is an obvious way to reduce violent law enforcement confrontations while also building trust in cops: Police should be required to use wearable cameras and record their interactions with citizens. These cameras—various models are already on the market—are small and unobtrusive and include safeguards against subsequent manipulation of any recordings.

“Everyone behaves better when they’re on video,” Steve Ward, the president of Vievu, a company that makes wearable gear, told ReasonTV earlier this year. Given that many departments already employ dashboard cameras in police cruisers, this would be a shift in degree, not kind.

Derek Thompson is on the same page:

When researchers studied the effect of cameras on police behavior, the conclusions were striking.

Within a year, the number of complaints filed against police officers in Rialto fell by 88 percent and “use of force” fell by 59 percent. “When you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better,” Chief William A. Farrar, the Rialto police chief, told the New York Times. “And if a citizen knows the officer is wearing a camera, chances are the citizen will behave a little better.”

Matt Stroud talked with attorney Scott Greenwood about putting cameras on cops:

“On-body recording systems [OBRS] would have been incredibly useful in Ferguson,” he says. “This is yet another controversial incident involving one officer and one subject, a minority youth who was unarmed,” a reference to Michael Brown, who was killed by police on August 9th. “OBRS would have definitively captured whatever interaction these two had that preceded the use of deadly force.” Armed with footage from an on-body camera system, it’s possible that police would’ve had no option but to take swift action against the officers involved — or if Brown’s behavior wasn’t as eyewitnesses describe, perhaps protests wouldn’t have swelled in the first place. Instead, the citizens of Ferguson are left with more questions than answers.

Moving forward, Greenwood doesn’t see how on-body cameras can be avoided. “I see no way moving forward in which Ferguson police do not use OBRS,” he says. “The proper use of OBRS is going to be a very important part of how these agencies restore legitimacy and public confidence.”