Some Police Body Cams Can Actually Harm The Innocent
With too many recent cases where police have acted counter to their mandate to protect and serve, many activists are calling for body cameras. But with many different makes and models that each have different features, which body cameras should police use?
Taser makes the most popular body camera, the Axon. Taser claims “Axon cameras resulted in an 87.5% drop in complaints against officers for the city of Rialto, California, and the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police saw their numbers decrease by 74%.” Their cameras also have many features, including a buffer, where it records the 30 seconds before the camera’s activated. Unfortunately, though, the Taser buffer doesn’t record sound. The reason, according to Taser representative Steve Tuttle: “We want to protect the officer’s privacy ’cause those private conversations could take the context out of what they were saying, especially if they were making a joke.”
That quest for privacy, however, could cause problems — there might be some audio that could prove useful in a case that wouldn’t be recorded, like the conversations in the police car that led to a particular person being pulled over in the first place, particularly in cases where people are pulled over for “driving while Black”.
There’s also the issue of whether or not there should be a monitor, and who gets to see it. Safety Vision’s cameras feature a monitor for the officer. Mike Tennon from Safety Vision explains “This makes it very easy for the officer to go back in the field after he made a recording and actually review, recollect everything that just happened. And that way, his reports are going to be accurate.” This monitor, however, also lets the officer check for any potential problems that might get them in hot water and get a head-start in reframing the situation so any wrongdoing doesn’t appear as such. Other cameras feature outward-facing monitors, which are sold as an added deterrent force, much like anti-theft cameras in convenience stores.
Aside from catching officer wrongdoing, body cameras can also help the officers wearing them do their job. Travis Reddy of Strategic Systems Alliance says their CITE camera says their camera can read license plates and has facial recognition software, “As I wear this and walk around, it’s checking all the faces I walk past and all the vehicles I walk past and notifying me if any of those people are on my watch list.”
According to Reddy, one of the most important ways to make body cameras common is to make them appeal to officers as well as activists. “It’s important for the rank and file officer to see the value in it other than just repeatedly being used against them in the court. The technology has the ability to actually assist them to do their job and not just be a passive observer of what’s occurred.”
The ACLU says roughly a quarter of police departments use body cameras of some sort.
(Featured image via Pixabay)