Cameras on Cops

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Cameras on Cops

The need for camera on cops has been an ongoing subject in the United State, for quite some years now. This debate was fuelled by the fact that, most cops undertakings and interaction with the public usually went unrecorded, this in itself usually resulted in a puzzle in the attempts to verify whether the undesired extremities that arise during their encounter can be prosecuted by the legal system. (Lyon & David, p. n.d) It is still a challenge to the U.S government to implement the need for cameras on cops due to the various legislation enacted to protect the public human rights, and pressure inflated by the movements that are against such implementation.

According to Magers and Jeffreys (p.73), the ACLU for several reasons has usually channeled their complaints through the media for and against implementation of the need for camera on the policing department. Most of the cities in the U.S have to an extent implemented the use of these cameras on the police however; they also face major challenges when it comes to using them, and relying on them to interpret the law. (Lyon & David, p. n.d)Thus this paper will put a foot forward to highlight on how they are deployed, the impact of their usage overtime and possible recommendation for the technology.

By the fact that the public, the anti-human rights movement and the legislative body have had a myopic view of the proliferation of the surveillance camera to the Americans. These cameras have proved to keep in check the police on the abuse of power. After one encounter where a victim unarmed was shot dead by a policeman in Missouri in 2013, the dire need for the right piece of technology has propelled debate on the type of cameras that should be used to gain evidence on such unjustifiable claim of death cases, as potentially the street cameras missed to provide the evidence valid enough to investigate and prosecute the perpetrator. Despite the use of cameras along the U.S streets, the police cars dash boards, in prison and in interrogation has been consented to by the state agencies for public monitoring. Controversies however have emerged against the use of this pager sized gadget termed the “Body cam” on cops as to amount to surveillance and intrusion of privacy. This proposed body cams have been designed to be suitable and conveniently portable by attaching them on the cops’ uniform ranging from the police sunglasses, the shirts, in the head gears.

Significance of the body cams to the policing department

The inception and use of this cameras, is however a recommendable means to reduce or rather curb the upheavals emanating from the public encounter with the police. The major essence is to however verify the factors like;

The control over recordings:

The need of control over recordings is a major concern to both the police and the authority in concern. These may involve; addressing question on whether the cops to be allowed to” edit on the fly” in that they choose on what information should be captured on the camera with limited discretion? Whether to turn the cameras on or off as they please in their job? Such controversies need response as they may amount to, defectiveness and shrinking of police role in the law enforcement duties. (Lyon & David, p. n.d)

How should this then be implemented? According to Miller, Lindsay and Jessica (n.d), This is the ideal question, however, from the accountability point of view, the body-worn camera is meant for continuous recording of police undertakings throughout the shift, in order to dispel evasion of abuses committed while on duty. As equally as the body camera can invade the privacy of many Americans, it too has an encroaching effect on the police men wherever they are, conversing various issues that encumber their perception of matters that are of concern to them. Surveillance of the police by the authority, in analogy portrays of any form of surveillance to an employee by his senior, this is unlawful, as it is considered oppressing and stressful. The constitution on the human rights policies, majoring on the special rights allocated to the policing community in the U.S, they are not considered as any other employee but rather entitled some extraordinary power. (Lyon & David, p. n.d) According, Leone and David (p. n.d) , relevant policies stipulated should be meant provides relief to any cop. In particular provisions demands that 99% of the video footage recorded from the body cam should be deleted in a relatively short duration of time usually weekly without being reviewed. However, this may prove tricky as such assurances are rarely enough, with some instances proving emerging where the supervisors may trail this footage to garner up evidence against the police, to be indicted. (Lyon & David, p. n.d)

On the other hand if the body cams are allowed to be in control of an officer who is entitled to manipulate its usage, various instances of “mysterious loss of files” will still be encountered. This undermines the core purpose of the body cam, to detect any mischievous act by the law enforcers on their line of duty, which may be used to recommend disciplinary actions.

Major challenges thus lies on the balance that need to be struck, to ensure cops are not subjected to relentless surveillance while at the same time they don’t indulge in manipulation of this gadget basing it on their right to privacy. Drastic recommendation should be advanced and similar technology as the one applied to the dash cam devices adopted; such that the body cam can go on in response to some physical movement or drastic adrenaline response, purposefully limiting cops ability to choose on which instances to record. (Miller, Lindsay & Jessica, p. nd)

Societal concerns on the impacts of the cop cam;

Besides the oversight potential, the policing “cop cam” have some implications to the society as well, poised by their intrusion of privacy and possible inception of investigation of an honest public conducts. This observation calls for the need to gather data that are reasonably needed and discard the irrelevant one. To the society the non-manipulation of this gadget has been a source of a helping savior in the juridical cases, and some instances a mere form of public embarrassment, where intoxicated behavior being immortalized online, advanced by titillating release of videos to the public on various media. (Lyon & David, p. n.d)

To limit this form of threat that the cop cam may impose by intrusion of privacy, then the law enforcers should observe that;

It issue notice to the citizen on the use of the use of the “cop cam”. Most of these policies should descend from restriction on subsequent retentions and the use of recording. A couple of things, however, should be observed at the point of recordings. This may entail;

Limiting recording only to the uniformed officers and maybe to some marked vehicle, providing an insight to the citizens on what to expect at all instances such are observed. Only with exceptions to none planned raids either, by the SWAT team or non-uniformed officers.

At all instances, the policies advanced should stipulate that the police notify the public that they are being recorded either by oral communication or stickers and labels that communicate such to that effect.

It is also essential to stipulate on the law, to have an amendment that restrict surreptitious recordings and gathering intelligence based on the speech association or religion.

Secondly the police officers should be compelled to seek the respondent opinion on the use of camera or provide a clear notice on the usage of camera when entering a home in non-exigent circumstances; however documentation of such request and any other response should be provided.

In safeguarding the interest of the society, enhancing humanity and fairness the level and length of the retention of such footage should be of arm-length; not to surpass the main intention for which it was collected. This is to avoid unjust detection of culprits in instances that the footage was not meant for. In retention, it require that the period within which the footage should be irrelevant should be known, unless otherwise flagged then the retention period should be communicated to last for some while.

This policy should be brought to public awareness, either online or in the notice boards, such that the people encounter with the police to that effect, can effect complaints or access their file footage to take discretionary measures against such malpractices detected.

An effective back-end system should be adopted in order to configure, retain and delete the data once its retention period expires. This is in order to have a system that will prevent manipulation of such stored footage by the officers themselves; additionally the system should provide a trail of an impeachable audit to prevent custody of any footage just as with any evidence. (Miller, Lindsay & Jessica, p. nd)

The police department upon request by either an officer or individual should be able to flag footage retention, if it is believed to entail a proof of misconduct by either the parties that may assist in the court proceedings to indict either person of the parties involved.

Additionally the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU), has constantly been to the support of the use of cop cam due to its oversight usage in recordings; providing for the accountability oversight function. Since recordings at all instance will be made, and cop cam considered as a tool of systematic surveillance, the police department should subject it to strong rules about its usage, in that, it should be used for internal and external investigation of misconduct or in instances where suspicion amount for the footage to entail evidence of a crime.

The subject access is of another significant concern to the society. Then cop cam is to the advantage that those seeking justice in a legal proceedings can to extent allowed under discretionary measures to have copies of them either individually or through lawyers seeking evidence. (Lyon & David, p. n.d)

In summary the dilemma that need to be struck encompasses, the assurance that police are not under regime of surveillance, and ensuring they don’t manipulate the gadget. Therefore much importance should be attached to ensure that deployment of societal cases be accompanied by good privacy policies so that; the amounting benefits are not outweighed by mere fact of invasion of privacy. (Miller, Lindsay & Jessica, p. nd)

As much as drawing support to the use of cop cam, the authorities should be sure to revive and reenergize the integrity of the public confidence on the usage of body camera by guaranteeing protection of their privacy. This can only come about when good policies and the appropriate technology in hand are appropriately utilized to determine what should be leaked to the public domain and what to keep private, in order to avoid public embarrassments and demeaning. (Magers & Jeffrey, p. n.d )

By observing of the outlined; retention, recording, technological policies and cop camera usage will predominantly fuel campaign against abuses committed by the police. It is however early to ridicule failure of this gadget at this juncture, however, close monitoring is all that is needed to ensure that improvements and re-evaluation of the policies are fostered to determine the relevancy of the future need for these body cameras.


Miller, Lindsay, and Jessica Toliver. Implementing a Body-worn Camera Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned. 2010. Print. (Miller, Lindsay & Jessica, p. nd)

Magers, Jeffrey S. "Compstat A New Paradigm for Policing or a Repudiation of Community Policing?."Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice20.1 (2004): 70-79.(

Lyon, David. Surveillance Society: Monitoring Everyday Life. Buckingham [England: Open UP, 2002. Print. (Lyon & David, p. n.d)

(Magers & Jeffrey, p. n.d )