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All Police Officers Should Wear a Body Camera

For many decades, the relationship between minority groups in various American cities and law enforcement has been described as tense. Scholars recognize that hostility between police and multiple communities became one of the leading causes of massive civil unrest in the 1960s (White et al. 690). However, to resolve this issue, body-worn cameras (BWCs) were successfully introduced as a recommendation into President Obama’s final 2015 police report (White et al. 689). Overall, there has been a broad spectrum of opinions over the influence of BWCs. Therefore, it is particularly interesting to learn more about the topic to fully comprehend the impacts of such new technology on police force procedures. The literature suggests that the use of body cameras positively contributes to the reinforcement of procedural justice, as well as the prevention of unethical behavior, and police brutality.

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One of the primary reasons why BWCs should be introduced into the police officers’ operations is to ensure police conduct’s accuracy. The recent study that interviewed 899 police detainees about their experiences with police BWCs suggested that most participants found BWCs beneficial (Taylor et al. 1). A large proportion of police arrestees mentioned a positive impact on the overall fairness for both police forces and the public. Detainees’ primary reasoning for the assertive attitude of BWCs was their influence on a more accurate projection of events, including arrests. Therefore, the study suggests that people arrested by the police believe that the officers’ conduct and the arrest procedures are better regulated with the BWCs. Moreover, other scholars have presented a positive correlation between BWCs and the accuracy of police conduct. The study that interviewed 249 individuals that participated in the BWC-recorded police encounter suggests a positive relationship between the citizens’ awareness of the use of cameras and their belief in procedural justice (White et al. 694). Therefore, if individuals were knowledgeable of the BWC, they evaluated the encounter with police as impartial. Thus, the BWCs can be implemented as a tool for the formation of improved police legitimacy. Overall, when a subject is conscious of the BWC, they may acknowledge the technology as an effort by the police to be transparent and liable.

Furthermore, the use of BWCs has a positive impact on ethical police performance. Literature suggests that individuals were content with how they were assisted during the contact with the police and how the situation was resolved when the BWCs were used. In general, over eighty percent of individuals who participated in the study agreed that the police representatives acted in a professional manner (White et al. 695). Over seventy percent stated that they assumed the officer was concerned about their well-being (White et al. 695). Lastly, almost two-thirds of the research sample had a positive experience with the police and were content with the resolution. Thus, people are statistically more likely to have a positive experience with law enforcement when they are aware of the BWCs, which leads to the prevention of inappropriate behavior by the police. Additionally, scholars discovered that BWCs had improved the quality of police performance and behavior. Nineteen percent of individuals with positive attitudes towards the usage of cameras emphasized the essential influence they have on the reinforcement of appropriate police rules and regulations (Taylor et al. 7). Thus, BWCs are a useful tool to ensure that both police and agents of the public act professionally. Overall, to assure officers in the United States do not exceed their authority in any possible way, the use of BWCs can assist in resolving contemporary issues with inappropriate police performance.

Lastly, BWCs can ensure police use less force while conducting arrests. The recent protests against police brutality had proven that the problem of excessive use of force is particularly relevant. Literature suggests that police brutality was not evident in some instances because the officers had decided not to mention such occurrences in their police reports (Lippert and Newell 124). Instead, the officers claim that subjects had resisted arrest violently, thus justifying their use of force. However, the street cameras were often able to capture the suspects’ conforming behavior, which is the opposite of the one reported by the police (Lippert and Newell 124). Therefore, the history of similar instances supports the need for BWCs as additional reassurance. Besides the need for additional evidence to police reports regarding their use of force, studies suggest that BWCs have a high potential in resolving this issue. Individuals that encountered police officers stated that BWCs could help relieve tensions and possibly decrease violent confrontations between police and the public (Taylor et al. 6). The implementation of BWCs implies that the officers are not immune to the potential investigation of force overuse. Such changes will mean that exposure to police brutality and unjust profiling will not rely entirely on accidental videoing by street cameras.

However, despite the evidence of BWCs benefits, there are opposing arguments, including the issues with consent and footage falsification. The twelve percent of detainees that claimed BWCs were not acceptable reported having problems with consent (Taylor et al. 7). Thus, the primary concern is those police officers might not regularly notify individuals they were recording their interaction. The consent argument is valid; nonetheless, if all officers will be required to wear body cameras, the public will automatically assume that videos are being taken of them. Thus, the overall awareness of BWCs will prepare both police officers and civilians to be recorded. The other possible argument against the use of body cameras is potential issues with fairness. Nineteen percent of detainees expressed concerns that police “could edit footage or use the cameras selectively” (Taylor et al. 8). Thus, some individuals believe that officers could decide when to turn cameras on or off, possibly not recording acts of mistreatment during the arrests and then videoing arrestees’ responses once agitated. Alternatively, the recordings may be a subject of editing, which can produce misinformation. These arguments do not target the quality of BWCs as a tool but rather reemphasise the ongoing mistrust between the public and the police. Therefore, the improved procedures of BWCs that would ensure clarity and fairness could produce positive results.

The research states that BWCs positively influence the reinforcement of procedural justice, prevention of misconduct, and misuse of force. Various studies claim that individuals who interacted with the police think that the officers’ behavior is better coordinated with the BWCs. Moreover, when people are informed of the BWC, they interpret the cameras as an attempt by law enforcement to be less biased. Therefore, people tend to have a better experience with police officers who use BWCs, which leads to the prevention of improper conduct. Lastly, the arguments used against BWCs are valuable; however, they can be resolved after ensuring that all officers wear body cameras without exception. If public and police officers want to coexist together without tension, the BWCs can be a good start to building trust between the two.

Works Cited

Taylor, Emmeline, et al. “Police Detainee Perspectives on Police Body-Worn Cameras.” Australian Institute of Criminology, no. 537, 2017, pp. 1-13, Web.

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Lippert, Randy, and Bryce Clayton Newell. “Debate Introduction: The Privacy and Surveillance Implications of Police Body Cameras.” Surveillance and Society, vol. 14, 2016, pp.113-116.

White, Michael, et al. “Assessing Citizen Perceptions of Body-Worn Cameras after Encounters with Police.” Policing – an International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, vol. 40, 2017, pp. 689-703. Emerald Publishing Limited. 

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