When body-worn cameras for law enforcement officers first came out, there was a lot of speculation about the effectiveness of these devices. Nowadays, with plenty of research and controlled field experiments, it’s easy to objectively analyze all the data and point out all the pros and cons of these cameras. We’ve taken the time to do such task and here are our conclusions:
- Body cameras promote transparency: with body-worn cameras record every interaction an officer has, making sure every story is told from beginning to end
- Body cameras save departments time and money: lawsuits, investigations, and litigations cost a lot of money. Departments that equip their officers with body cameras can save hundreds of thousands of dollars every year by preventing these situations
- Viewers get to feel what it’s like to be in the shoes of the police officers: by looking at a situation from the officer’s perspective, civilians are more likely sympathize and relate to the officer’s actions
- It gives officers a sense of security: smartphones made it easy for every civilian to have a high-definition digital camera right in their pockets, having the ability to record any situation and, perhaps, edit or crop the footage in an attempt to incriminate officers. Videos recorded with police body cameras show the entire episode and can’t be doctored to incriminate or absolve anyone
- Body cameras make officers and civilians act more peacefully: people tend to be more compliant and to abide by the law when they know they are being recorded
- Body cameras can be pricey: there are more components to a body camera solution than the camera itself. Equipping an entire department with body cameras means purchasing cameras, accessories, servers, docking stations, and evidence management software licenses. Considering most police departments are constantly on a budget, it’s hard for them to get grants to purchase a complete solution
- Body cameras add extra weight to an officer’s uniform: although these devices are small and lightweight, we have to take into account that police officers already have dozens of other tools attached to their uniforms. An extra tool just makes it even more uncomfortable and impractical.
After carefully reading all the information listed above, it’s pretty clear that the pros outweigh the cons, making body cameras a no-brainer. Perhaps that’s why the vast majority of police departments in the United States have strict policies about the use of such devices. Now it’s time for the rest of the world to catch up.