The body-worn camera is a technology that is primarily used by police and serves accountability function for law enforcement and the public. These cameras worn by policemen are valuable in recording the misconduct and abuse of power by police.
However, the documentation can also reveal how people interact with the police. These technologies can record the action, speech, and location of the public, which also raises some concerns. In this article, we will highlight everything you need to know about body-worn cameras.
What is a Body-Worn Camera?
Body-worn cameras are referred to as small devices that furtively record the communication between law enforcement and suspects, victims, or any other community member. Law enforcers can leverage the audio and video recorded by the body-worn camera as evidence to authenticate their transparency to the public, record statements, assess behaviors, determine unprofessional or illegal behavior, etc. by authority or the public.
How Do Body Worn Cameras Functions?
Body-worn cameras are basically tiny cameras that can be easily clipped on the uniform of the officers. Additionally, they can also be worn as a headset to document audio and video interaction between public and law enforcement.
Typically, these videos are saved with data and time stamps and GPS coordinates. Moreover, somebody cameras also provide real-time video streaming and Bluetooth trigger option that launch the automatic recording.
Agencies can choose the input that will trigger the launch of these cameras, thereby eliminating the need for manual activation. These triggers can be anything, including turning on sirens or cruiser lights, when the vehicle exceeds a certain speed limit or crash sensor activation.
The more advanced wireless holster sensors are capable of alerting body cameras when the officers draw their guns. Furthermore, there are some body-worn cameras that offer 30 seconds of video without sound before the camera actually begins to record. The footage is stored in external databases that are handled by either the police agencies or dedicated vendors.
When police launch body-worn cameras, they collect audio and video footage of the public. The video captures people’s faces that can be further analyzed by face recognition technology. There are body camera systems that enable officers to add metadata tags to the video documents in the field via their tablets.
Body-Worn Cameras and Their Potentials to Law Enforcement
Police documents video footage when they have to stop or frisk someone, conduct a car chase or stop, search property, carry out witness interviews, make an arrest, or issue a summons. Considering these cameras collect audio and video, the images of suspects can be used for facial recognition. Different companies use this technology in an array of ways, depending on the jurisdictions.
What are the Benefits of Body-Worn Cameras?
Following are the prominent advantages of body-worn cameras:
Strong Evidence Against Domestic Violence Cases
Domestic violence cases have always been challenging to prosecute. The unwillingness of victims to testify and lack of adequate evidence are two vital challenges that such cases deal with. When the authorities are certain that suspect is abusing the victim; however when the latter refuses to press charges, or there is a lack of evidence, these cases fail to go on trial. The body-worn camera allows officers to record the scene of the crime real-hand, which serves as the evidence for the case. Even when the victim denies the claim later, there is proof that claims otherwise.
Helps in Current Consent Decrees
When officers are under consent decrees and external investigations, body cameras prove to be extremely helpful. The end objective always remains to get the department out of the under consent decrees as quickly as possible. For that, they have to show that the officers in the police department adhere to constitutional policies.
Video documentation of officers communicating with the community members can display that officers are staying within the policies and working to improve their practices.
Reducing the Number of Complaints Against Officers
One of the advantages of using body-worn cameras is that it works to decrease the filed complaints against the police officers. It shows whether or not the camera is improving the conduct of officers, civilians, and both. Owing to the body-worn camera evidence, there has been a significant decrease in the claims against police officers.
Understanding the Behavior Pattern of Officer
Body cameras can help agencies improve communication, tactics, and customer services in different areas. By leveraging the video footage, agencies can plan scenario-centric training to prepare new officers. The footage also allows the command staff to determine the areas where improvements are needed. This can serve as the basis for is improvement training and set up new policies and protocols.
Collection of Evidence
One of the important reasons why agencies use the body-worn camera is to collect evidence from the crime scene. These cameras over the years have helped to settle conflicting reports from witnesses and victims. The video allows officers to compare the reports by victims and witnesses to the actual happening. Contrary to in-car cameras, these cameras capture the entire incident and offer accurate information.
While there are many advantages of using body-worn cameras, technology also comes with some challenges. Police officers, as well as community members, have raised concerns with regards to privacy. The cameras record real-time traumatic experiences, but the impact of such a situation on officer and citizen are not comprehended properly. The usage of this camera should come with proper implementation.
Despite the limitation, body-worn cameras have been gaining a lot of momentum in law enforcement. They help police agencies in an array of scenarios. The recordings can be saved for many years and allow officers to access them in different cases. When choosing these cameras, it is important to choose a reliable vendor who can assure quality product and services.
Some vendors also offer a storage facility along with the camera. And there are different types of body cameras that come with distinctive features and costs. Depending on the purpose, agencies can allocate their costs among variations of these cameras.