Body-cameras are tools. They have the potential to help well-trained officers stay protected, and they can keep officers more accountable for their actions. Like any tool, they are not inherently good or bad. Here are the main pros and cons of police being required to wear cameras, so you can decide for yourself.
- Improved safety – Police departments who require their officers to wear body cameras have been shown to have lower numbers of force incidents by more than 50 percent. In fact, body cameras have been shown to reduce violence by both police and respondents.
- Accountability – Body cameras also ensure that good officers are rewarded for their actions. It may be encouraging to learn that complaints filed against police departments implementing body cameras have gone down. This gives the impression that most officers are fantastic at what they do, and that wearing body cameras can help to bridge feelings of animosity that exist between officers and civilians.
- Transparency – To come from the angle cynically, even if officers are only doing their job correctly because their actions are being recorded, this is still of great benefit. If police transparency means fewer shootings, everyone wins.
- Loss of privacy – The most substantial argument against body cameras is that they reduce American’s privacy. Every police officer wearing a body camera means countless hours of state-owned footage featuring civilians. With the amount of our information already captured by our computers, smart phones, and hands-free speakers, it’s understandable that some would take issue with body cameras.
- Complications – Another limitation against body cameras is that the guidelines for when the cameras should be turned on are obscure. This results in cameras often being turned off in key moments, rendering the whole point of wearing them apparently useless. Assuming a camera was turned off maliciously when it was actually technological malfunction or accident could incriminate an innocent officer.
All in all, the benefits of police body cameras seem to outweigh the negatives. As a result, many police departments are implementing their use.