Leading Issues in the News: Police and Body Cameras
Civil rights activists have long called for police officers to wear body cameras. But recently, after seemingly endless incidents of conflicts between police and citizens–many that led to the deaths of unarmed black men and were recorded on bystanders’ cell phone videos–more cities are implementing the use of body-worn cameras for their law enforcement personnel. About a third of the nation’s 18,000 police agencies are now either testing body cameras or have embraced them to record their officers’ interactions with the public.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology published the first full scientific study of the experiment they conducted on policing with body-worn-cameras in Rialto, California in 2012. The experiment showed that evidence capture is just one output of body-worn video, and the technology is perhaps most effective at actually preventing escalation during police-public interactions: whether that is attacks on or abuse of police officers, or unnecessary use of force by law enforcement. The study found that when the officers wore body cameras, public complaints against police were down 88% compared with the previous 12 months, while the officers’ use of force fell by 60%.
While the hope is that the cameras will increase transparency, accountability and boost police-community relations, their widespread use has also raised concerns about the privacy of people caught in body camera footage. There are also important questions about public access, review, storage, tampering and disciplinary action for officers who don’t use the devices properly. The cameras are also expensive. They can range in price from $300 to $800 per officer, and monthly video storage costs can cost hundreds of thousands more. In September, the Justice Department announced $23 million in grants for a pilot program to help agencies in 32 states to expand the use of body-worn cameras and explore their impact.
Should police officers be required to use body cameras?
This is the Essential Question explored in a recent addition to SIRS Issues Researcher’s list of over 345 Leading Issues: Police and Body Cameras.
For all Leading Issues, SIRS Editors create an engaging Essential Question, a summary for context, viewpoint statements, plus supporting articles to help build solid foundations for understanding the issues. Thousands of hand-selected, highly targeted newspaper and magazine articles, graphics, charts, maps, primary sources, government documents, websites, multimedia, as well as critical thinking questions, and timelines help broaden student comprehension of each topic. A Research Guide is offered to help guide each student through their assignment step by step.
Educators, direct your students to the new and updated SIRS Issues Researcher to dig deeper into the topic of Police and Body Cameras. Or they can explore these related issues:
- Civil Rights
- Discrimination in Criminal Justice Administration
- Racial Profiling
- Technology and Privacy
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Tags: body cameras, criminal justice system, law enforcement, Leading Issues, police, police brutality, privacy, race discrimination, racism, SIRS Issues Researcher, SIRS Knowledge Source, video recordings
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