The recent controversy surrounding police officers in Ferguson, MO, is hard to ignore. The fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown made headlines. There are different sides to the story. Witness accounts claim Brown was trying to surrender, arms in the air when he was fatally shot. Police state that as the officer was trying to exit the vehicle, Brown pushed in back in and there was a struggle over the officer’s weapon. Tension between officers and the black community has only worsened since this incident.
The obvious clashing of viewpoints has caused quite an uproar. With protests spanning from violent to peaceful, the media coverage has provided an opportunity to make each sides’ voice heard.
Because it is unclear what exactly happened that night, the push for officers to wear body worn cameras when in uniform has been strong. Many feel that this may decrease incidences of excessive force as well as attacks on officers. As previously discussed in our blog, body worn cameras for police officers have been tested in pilot programs, however, reports of effectiveness have varied.
Here in California, City of Hawthorne Mayor Chris Brown is pushing for the use of these cameras. In a letter released on August 15, 2014, the mayor wrote, “I am simply not willing to gamble with a single life, or the wrongful accusation of upstanding officers.” While these body worn cameras can possibly produce helpful evidence while deterring misbehavior from officers and the public alike, the costs run fairly high. Each camera can run up to $800-$1000 per officer. This expense is a large part of why most police departments have refrained from adopting the program.
As with use of any type of security camera, privacy concerns arise. A possible solution to this would leave it up to the officer’s discretion to turn the cameras on and off. However, human error can cause suspicions. Missing footage because an officer forgot to turn on the camera could spark much controversy depending on the case. Also, taking time to turn the cameras on and off can distract officers and compromise safety for both themselves and the public.
With recent events and what we know about body worn cameras, do you think employing them on our officers would help decrease violence and crimes? Or do you think these cameras be a waste of funds? We would love to hear your thoughts on the topic. You can connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.
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