More Police Using Body Cameras

Monday, 18 Aug 2014 06:27 AM

By Greg Richter

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Police departments across the country are adding another level of protection for their officers: body cameras.

The departments hope the videos help them tell their side of the story when there are conflicts, such as the recent fatal police shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, The Wall Street Journal reported.

With more members of the public recording police actions, the departments want to ensure all sides are shown.

"If you look at what's happening in Ferguson — basically you have two entirely different versions of events," Michael White, criminology professor at Arizona State University told the Journal. "If that officer was wearing a body-worn camera we could just go to the tape."

Recent studies have shown that the cameras reduce complaints against officers. In Rialto, California, the number of complaints dropped from 24 to three in the first year officers wore the cameras, the Journal said.

"When you talk about putting a camera on somebody, human nature is going to dictate that you're going mind your p's and q's and you're going to be on the best behavior," Rialto Police Chief Tony Farrar told the newspaper.

"At the same time, I think it's had an impact on citizens — if they know you're wearing a camera they too will be on their best behavior," he added.

The Mesa, Arizona, Police Department put the cameras on 50 officers, and left 50 without them. After eight months, the officers with cameras had eight citizen complaints filed against them. Those without the cameras had 23.

But the high-tech gear comes with questions. There are concerns about privacy rights of police and citizens being violated. Privacy groups have endorsed the cameras' use with restrictions.

"This is a brave new world that we're entering here, where citizens and police both are going to be filming each other," Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum told The Associated Press in March.

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