PHI 210 – Critical Thinking
In the discussion about the pros and cons of law enforcement personnel using body cameras, I am very much in favor of the use of these cameras. While the use of Police body cameras gained popularity when President Obama promised to fund for these cameras in response to the apparent rise of unarmed black men shot by law enforcement their benefits have proven to be beneficial for police, suspects, and victims. Body cameras have helped to create transparency and elevate accountability for all parties. The cameras have also been helpful in proving or disproving wrongdoing by law enforcement personnel. The footage from the body cameras have also been useful in providing evidence in questionable circumstances and have been used in police training exercises. Strong public support for the use of body cameras has been another benefit. I agree with all of these points and many others not discussed in the article. For more information, please refer to the article at ProCon.org or https://www.procon.org/headline.php?headlineID=005399
The Opposition of Police Body Cameras
As with just about any topic that reaches the public, for every positive view on police body cameras, there are also opposing viewpoints. The three opposing views that deserve further investigation are listed below, and the “believing” questions will be discussed after the presentation of each view.
Police body cameras decrease the safety of police officers and negatively affect their physical and mental health
Studies done in the European Journal of Criminology found that assaults on police officers were 14% higher when body cameras were in use because of some people, especially those that were intoxicated or under the influence of substances or with mental health issues, react negatively and even violently when filmed by law enforcement. Additionally, it was suggested that the body cameras could affect police officers psychologically because of the strain of being under constant surveillance.
I feel that this is an impressive view and was helpful as I read more of the explanations provided. If I were supportive of this view, I would notice the increased percentage of assaults on law enforcement and the facts about the equipment malfunctioning and possibly injuring the officers. I believe that people that are behaving badly could become angry if their actions were being filmed by an officer because of the proof of their behavior the cameras provide. I am married to a retired law enforcement officer, and he was able to share that there is a little bit of extra stress with the body cameras in remembering to turn them off before using the restroom and other such personal activities so that I can see the added stress component of this argument.
Police body cameras invade the privacy of citizens, expose victims and witnesses of crimes, and damage the police-public relationships.
It is noted in this opposing view that recording interactions between police and civilians can lead to medical conditions becoming public or witness and victims being exposed if the footage is made public. It is also believed that people seem much more hesitant to speak openly with law enforcement while being filmed or even if the camera has been turned off.
I do not feel that this view is as strongly supported as the first view. I think that this stance leads more to speculation than facts. I did find interest in the comment about witnesses or victims being exposed if the footage was made public. This point had me do some research to see how much of the camera footage is made public, the bulk of my research came from the Reporters Committee website: https://www.rcfp.org/resources/bodycams/. While there are many bills introduced to make the footage public, there does not seem to be much progress in this area. Only Alabama had a court case decide the rules regarding public access to the footage. My belief on this matter is that should the footage eventually be made public that victims and witnesses identities would be protected. In the event the footage becomes available to the public this would be a legitimate concern to protect witnesses and victims.
Police body cameras are too expensive and are unreliable.
This viewpoint cited the cost in numerous locations throughout the United States for equipping officers with body cameras and all of the additional costs that most may not have considered, such as training, data storage facilities, extra staff to manage the data and maintenance costs. The numbers provided were substantial and bore earnest consideration. Interestingly worth mentioning was that a sheriff’s office in Virginia has stopped using the body cameras do to technical issues with the camera and difficulty integrating with the IT systems in the station. I found this view helpful and thought-provoking giving me a host of other ideas to consider. The main point that I would notice if this were a view I believed is the sheer expense of the equipment. Comprehensive research would be a requirement for stations and areas wishing to invest in body cameras for the officers.
In conclusion, with further investigation into the opposing views for law enforcement use of body cameras, I feel that while I learned the areas of concern little change to my overall viewpoint on the issue has changed. I still support the use of law enforcement body cameras completely, but now I am even more interested in finding out how to keep the footage from being made available to the general public because of the necessity to protect the victims and witnesses. In addition to witness and victim protection, the footage should not be released to the general public to protect the officers, should that footage fall into the wrong hands an angry spectator could take it upon himself to dole out punishment to an officer. I feel the body camera add more safety and accountability to all of the parties involved in a situation that requires law enforcement, but I feel a gained deeper insight by exploring the opposing views.