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Are Body Cameras Fighting Police Misconduct?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 2420 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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The essay is about body worn cameras been used on police officers to combat police misconduct. The essay answer the question of what body worn cameras or BWCs are. The events and policies that caused them to begin. Also, the benefits and concerns of BWCs for police, citizens and the government. Lastly situations they were used to investigate police inappropriate use of force and a conclusion to summarize why they’re needed again. The results of the research from scholar journal articles were that body worn cameras since being enforce some places since 2014 have shown a decrease in police misconduct, and inappropriate actions from citizens. They have help hold police accountable for wrongful deadly use of force.

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Policing in America has always had controversy surrounding different aspects of it. From how police do certain procedures to how they enforce the law. In the past couple of years, the debate of deadly force by police officer has come into question because some groups feel they are targeted. Specially minority groups that express police use unnecessary deadly force against them, which they feel the officer should be criminally charged for. However most of these officers in these cases usually don’t face any charges. To combat this issue citizens, want to enforce body worn cameras or BWCs on police officers. “BWCs are mobile cameras that allow law enforcement officers to record what they see and hear. They can be attached to a helmet, a pair of glasses, or an officer’s shirt or badge” (James). To capture these moments, they confront a suspect. Citizens hope with these cameras watching what happens police will follow procedures and hopefully it will result in less wrongful deaths. In 2014 the death of Michael Brown an African America man in Ferguson, Missouri started the push for body worn cameras to hold police officer accountable. The officer claims he felt his life was in danger. “Darren Wilson described Michael Brown as looking “like a demon” and commented that he “felt like a five-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan.” An armed officer, vulnerable. An angry teenager, dead. America.” (Rabinowitz). Darren Wilson was found out guilty for the wrongful death of Michael Brown. This not being a surprising decision considering past landmark cases like the Rodney King beating. In 1991 Rodney King an ex con and African American man was beaten by police after a car chase. A bystander happened to record the events and the video showed four LA police officer using deadly force on a man that was already on the ground. However, the officers were still acquitted of all charges. That case caused no procedure changes for police officers but caused minority groups to riot and have less faith in police officers. It has now taken twenty-three years for the government to enforce body worn cameras in some departments to hold officers accountable.

Policy actions for the enforcement of body worn cameras didn’t trigger US citizens until the summer of 2014, when Michael Brown was shoot. Protest following his death sparked an uproar for surveillance on police and an investigation into the situation. “A petition to the White House has called for a “Mike Brown Law”, requiring all police to wear an on-body camera while on duty” (Rutkin). The White House has not yet responded to this petition. However, since the death of Brown more officers in Ferguson has been wearing body cameras since the protest. Government action sometimes take long to respond so citizens created apps to combat police misconduct. “three Georgia teenagers released a smartphone app called Five-O, in which users rate local policemen from A to F, along with details of their interactions” (Rutkin). Not every place in America has the benefit of body worn cameras yet so citizens found other ways to protect themselves. With this app it can report officers that abuse their power and provide support calls for department evaluations. Campaigns like the ACLU have even started they’re own service to stop police misconduct because even experts say. “”Police misconduct is not usually just caused by one rotten apple. It is caused by a rotten barrel,” says Stephen Rushin at the University of Illinois College of Law in Champaign” (Rutkin).

 The use of body worn cameras or BWCs will be very beneficial for policing. Police officers will feel deter from not following procedures and citizens. This causes less complaints against the officers and the department. Body worn cameras have other potential benefits. The use of force by officers is more reasonable, citizens are less likely to attack an officer with a BWC on. “cited study on the use of BWCs by officers in the Rialto (CA) Police Department found, citizens complaints against the police decreased 88% and the use of force incidents decreased 60%” (James). Body worn cameras have shown to stop situations like the Michael Brown shooting and Rodney King beating from happening again. BWC help stop complaints against police because its able to show some transparency on a situation. Lastly body worn cameras could prove police training, because it can show officers what to do in certain situations.

 With benefits always comes concerns, body worn cameras can help police departments but expanding this program can be very costly. The cost to outfit an officer with this technology is not cheap. Since recent high-profile shooting of minority men. The demand for body worn cameras as made the industry grow rapidly. “Industry executives estimate the market has grown to around $1 billion a year following a series of high-profile shooting incidents involving police over the past nine months.” (Shukla). The cost of one body camera is expensive but police departments also must pay for the storage of all the data. Since its in such high demand’s companies can charge overpriced amounts for cameras and storage management. “company’s cameras sell for about $900 each but are offered with a three-year cloud management service at around $2,100” (James). These companies provide cameras to thousands of police departments around the United States. The cost of BWCs the major concern for they’re use. However, over the past couple years the government has started to provide funding for the programs because of citizen protest. “The federal government is providing $75 million in matching funds to law- enforcement agencies to buy cameras and related services, spurring a rally in manufacturers’ stocks.” (James). After the fatal shooting of African American teenager Michael Brown, protest in Ferguson triggered the government to act. To avoid events like the LA riots which happen after four police officers were acquitted from the brutal beating of Rodney King. More concerns for the BWCs are when officers can record a suspect. Not every situation may be smart to record if the person is already distrustful of the police or has a mental illness or it could risk the privacy of a suspect. Lastly the concern of if the footage will be public for citizens to see. Procedures and funding need to take place before the true benefit of body worn cameras can be seen nationwide.

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 The use of body worn cameras is more beneficial then concerning. It holds people accountable for their actions in a society where abuse of power is real even with police officers. In 2014 President Obama in December gave away fifty thousand cameras to police departments. It has shown to be beneficial in holding officers accountable when the camera is on and off. Like in Albuquerque, New Mexico when an officer was fired for not turning on his camera. “Officer Jeremy Dear had been involved in a high-profile shooting of a 19-year-old woman in April, in which no footage was recovered from his lapel camera” (Elinson). The police chief at this department inform all officers to record all situations with citizens. The lawyer for Mr. Dear claimed this statement about the incident. “the officer was never given such an order, and that he had attempted to activate the camera during the shooting incident. Mr. Dear is appealing the dismissal” (Elinson). This statement later been disproven because the police chief said himself the order was given to have every officer record suspect situations. “Insubordination tears at the fabric of public safety, especially when the officer makes a choice not to follow a lawful order.” (Elinson).  This decision to have Mr. Dear fired is a win for public safety. Considering citizens have waited years for polices to come under investigation for abuse of discretion and power. Just two months before this situation in October this same department came underneath scrutiny for police shootings. Mr. Dear was one of the first officers to be investigated since the enforce of body cameras in certain departments in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown. Other officers just like Mr. Dear have already been found to be using inappropriate uses of force. In Saratoga Springs, Utah an officer shoot a twenty-two-year-old black man. “One officer involved in the shooting in September didn’t turn on his body camera, said Owen Jackson, a city spokesman. A second officer involved in the incident had no camera. He said the officer was “focused on the call and was a fairly new officer.”” (Elinson). This department didn’t have a policy yet enforcing officers use the cameras in every situation. However, the officers were under investigation because the autopsy showed the man, Mr. Hunt was shoot in the back multiple times. These two situations show the benefits of BWCs and disadvantages when not used. The first officer was rightfully fired for his police misconduct. However, the other two officers got away abuse of power they could have used other uses of force. Before shooting and shooting him in the back shows he was no threat to them because he was turned around.

 In conclusion body worn cameras benefit everyone because they benefit public safety. They not only protect citizens but also officers. “When somebody started to become aggressive, as soon as they were told that they were being filmed or they saw the camera, it did result in a change in behavior,” says Jones.” (Rutkin). Sometimes officers are falsely accused of police misconduct. But BWCs improve behavior because citizens and police understand their actions are reviewable. Officers that follow department procedures find BWCs to be very helpful, because it helps clear them from false accusations. Also, it helps keep the public safe because people depend to behave more when recorded. “Phoenix BWC study revealed that officers’ perceptions of the ease of use and benefits of BWCs significantly enhanced, showed greater improvements in officer perceptions regarding the positive impact of BWCs for officers and citizens” (Headley). These are big important points that have convinced officers these programs isn’t to attack their departments but to protect everyone. Even in huge cities like New York city where the cops have been under investigation for unconstitutional stop and frisk incidents. Body worn cameras improve the quality of life and safety for everyone. Since 2014 and the wrongful death of Michael Brown. Policies to enforce BWCs have shown nothing but improvement in officer and citizen behavior. It was said that the BWCs program was a “nontransparent, go-it-alone approach to police reform,” (Shallwani). Which best describe the improvement this program as brought to the United States.



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