The Pros And Cons Of Police Body-Mounted Cameras

Carlos Miller

The Pros And Cons Of Police Body-Mounted Cameras.

The Branford Police Department in Connecticut is the latest law enforcement agency in the country to issue body-mounted cameras to its officers.

This is obviously a good thing, especially if police actually take the next step and allow the public to view the footage upon public records requests.

And especially if police keep the cameras turned on, unlike some Oakland police officers who keep them off during protests.

Last year, a police department in Wisconsin was given approval by the city council to activate the cameras at its discretion, which kind of defeats the purpose.

The New Haven Register interviewed Photography is Not a Crime reader Mario Cerame for its story on the Branford Police Department.

Cerame, a student at Quinnipiac University School of Law, also runs the Right to Record blog and happens to be one of the most knowledgeable sources on case law on the subject.

He wrote a blog post expanding on his comments in the article, listing the positives and negatives about police officers using body-mounted cameras.

I’ll list the “possible downsides” here. Click on his blog to read the entire post.

  • They are fairly expensive to purchase, another cost for taxpayers
  • Police will need training in procedures (when to start recording, how to use the device and store it, how to store video, etc.) , which will cost money and hours of police work-time
  • Police will need to develop new policies on how long to retain videos, when and how to delete them, how to store the video to ensure chain-of-custody, and so on, all of which will cost in hours of police administrator time on likely prosecutors’ hours
  • Some might complain about a privacy issue–I disagree with this, personally, as there is no privacy interest under the Fourth Amendment where an officer is lawfully present
  • There is the question of how to deal with video of an encounter were an officer violates the Fourth Amendment, both inadvertently and purposefully. Is that a private video or a public record? If private facts are disclosed, is anyone liable? And who?

Vievu, the company that sells these cameras, says it has sold them to more than 1,800 police departments throughout the country.

Even Taser, the company that mass produces the shock torture devices to keep citizens in line, released a body-mounted camera earlier this year to allow officers to document their torture.

Back in 2008, when PINAC was getting a little popular, a friend of mine approached Vievu about them possibly advertising on my site because the cameras would come in handy for my readers who record police. They declined, saying my blog was too negative.

This was before they had the slogan, “Made By Cops, Made For Cops,” on their website.

Los Angeles photo activist Shawn Nee has used a Vievu for years, capturing several incidents of police harassment over his still camera.

Even though the Vievu camera was in plain-view, those cops didn’t realize they were being recorded.

Back then, they were only going for a few hundred dollars and I should have bought one because now they’re selling for $900.

It’s amazing the mark-up you can get once you sell to government agencies.

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