Body cameras were first presented a few years ago as a way to provide evidence when specific incidents take place. Many law enforcement agencies have since gotten onboard, but the results are mixed.
Initially, there was a concern on the part of law enforcement that the cameras focused on what was right in front of the officer and did not do a good enough job in capturing the entire situation. But having a camera on while there is an incident can certainly provide unbiased evidence, not only of what occurred but also what was said. Advocates initially believed that this technology would also be another way to hold law enforcement officers accountable for bad behavior or violations.
No deterrent to bad behavior by law enforcement
There is now a new study published by researchers at George Mason University that examines incidents of law enforcement misconduct, including violation of constitutional rights or use of excessive force. The final data shows that law enforcement is not improving its behavior, and the cameras provide proof of bad behavior, particularly in communities of lower economic means.
Yet police feel better protected
While it was not discussed much during the initial rollout of the new body camera technology, the study found that officers often actually feel that the documentation was a good thing. This is particularly related to differing recollections on interaction with citizens.
Less criticism by citizens
The study also reveals some good news in finding that the number of complaints by citizens has gone down. This is directly tied to the use of body cameras by law enforcement.
No easy answers
The relationship between law enforcement and the citizens it protects can be complicated. While this technology helps in some respects, it is one step in building a better relationship. This means, among other things, that those arrested need attorneys to ensure that their client’s constitutional rights are protected. Sometimes it may come to pass that they will use that camera footage to better defend the innocence of their client.