Eye on Policing: How Body Cameras Change Law Enforcement

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Public Programs of the National Law Enforcement Museum

Eye on Policing: How Body Cameras Change Law Enforcement

The National Law Enforcement Museum hosted a panel discussion concerning the implementation of body warn cameras by law enforcement. Each panelist began by sharing their involvement with body worn cameras, touching on issues of pilot program implementation, getting community input, and creating and analyzing policies for body camera programs. Panelists also explained how they worked to get communities on board with the idea of body cameras. Lt. Grenon shared how, in Seattle, they provided room in their policy for officers to be able to flag certain elements of video in the metadata that might not be appropriate for public disclosure. Commander Jones told of a debate that came up in Montgomery County about whether or not it was appropriate for School Resource Officers to use cameras when engaging with students, and that privacy concerns of domestic violence and sexual assault victims was a common concern. The question of disclosure emerged as one of the primary concerns and challenges of body camera programs. Mr. Stanley explained what the ACLU sees as the ideal: “We don’t want to see extremes on either end of the spectrum…we don’t think that’s the right balance between transparency and disclosure.” According to Mr. Stanley, certain types of videos should be flagged and made publicly available, but routine video need not be held in perpetuity.

Another issue that was addressed was public requests for large amounts of video and the difficulties those requests create for police departments, both legally, and in terms of efficiency.

And finally, when addressing the question of pushback from patrol officers about using cameras, Commander Jones shared what he would tell his officers, “Everybody has a video on, so why not have your own camera telling your story.” He explained that video footage can help fill gaps that often exist in versions of events that are shown in the news media. Dr. White pointed out that body worn cameras have actually been used and researched for several years, but with recent police shootings, more citizens have considered body cameras to be a clear way to improve police behavior, while in reality, the effect of body camera usage is complicated. The general consensus among panelists was that this is a very complex issue, and that body worn camera programs will most likely benefit their communities if implemented thoughtfully and with robust policies in place.

Featuring:

Moderator

  • Lindsay Miller Goodison, Senior Research Associate, Police Executive Research Forum

Panelists

  • Marcus Jones, Third District Commander for the Montgomery County (MD) Police Department
  • Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project
  • Bryan Grenon of the Seattle (WA) Police Department
  • Michael White, Professor of the Arizona State University (ASU) School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Associate Director of ASU’s Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety

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