Should Police Wear Cameras?

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 21:  New York City Public Advocate Letitia James displays a video camera that police officers could wear on patrol during a press conference on August 21, 2014 in New York City.  James is advocating that the New York Police Department (NYPD) use cameras to record their actions. According to James, equipping 15% of the NYPD would cost $5 million.  (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Should Police Wear Cameras?

Petitions are calling for officers nationwide to wear cameras in the wake of several shootings against unarmed African-American men.

Published August 22, 2014

In the wake of the tragic killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford and John Crawford by police officers this past month, society is in search of solutions to assure that authorities protect and serve all citizens, regardless of their skin color. 

One idea growing in support is the call for police to wear cameras while they are on duty. A petition has collected 142,000 signatures for a Michael Brown law that would require all state, county and local police to wear cameras. 

"The law shall be made in an effort to not only detour police misconduct (i.e. brutality, profiling, abuse of power), but to ensure that all police are following procedure, and to remove all question, from normally questionable police encounters," organizers wrote on the petition page. 

Another petition on is calling for St. Louis County officers to wear cameras and has collected more than 50,000 signatures. There was no surveillance footage available of Officer Darren Wilson shooting and killing Brown on Aug. 9. This is an issue, according to the petition organizer Kirk Siefert.

"Many continue to speculate what happened, and we may never know the truth," he wrote. "But one thing we know for sure is that the officer who killed him did not have a car dash camera or a body cam to record the incident — a camera that could have prevented the incident or given us clear information about what happened."

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James has called for the NYPD to launch a pilot program that would place audio and video recording devices on police officers who are assigned to “high crime and misconduct complaint rates,” CBS New York reports. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is reviewing the pilot proposal.

“It’s a win-win for the community, improving police-community relations, providing transparency and accountability and it will exonerate police officers,” James said to CBS.

The Los Angeles Police Department began testing cameras on 30 officers who volunteered for a 90-day trial in March. The trial cost $1.2 million and was funded by donors such as Steven Spielberg and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

A few miles east, the Rialto Police Department implemented cameras by Taser International and found that complaints filed against officers declined by 88 percent. The results were tracked in an experiment by the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge in February 2012 to July 2013. 

There also may be a question of officer privacy as more police departments require them to wear cameras. As of now, more than 1,200 police agencies are using cameras by Taser International and that number may grow as more incidents such as the one in Ferguson, Missouri, come up in the future. 

Follow Natelege Whaley on Twitter: @Natelege_

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(Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Written by Natelege Whaley


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