Police officers across the country are being required to keep a camera on their person in order to lower the brutality rate in the nation with the largest prison population in the nation. These cameras raise questions on the privacy of victims and suspects alike. The biggest issues are what the footage will be used for, who is able to watch them and how long is the footage available.
The footage should be used in cases against the officer when accused of an abuse of power. The repercussions for most officers is not nearly steep enough when they go on a power trip and hurt or kill another American. Two weeks paid suspension is no penalty. It’s as if the boss told someone to take a two week paid vacation due to a negative action. As long as officers are policed by other police, justice will not be fully served in these cases. The addition of these cameras will allow for an undeniable evidence of misconduct. The usage of these cameras however should be regulated to certain police branches. Average police officers should definitely have these cameras installed as they are most susceptible to a power trip. Detectives are less likely to interact with an average citizen and crimes as they are happening.
The main problem with these cameras is the lack of the police being watched by anyone else but themselves. Military has a distinct chain of command and are governed by the Military Police. As the higher ups are much more removed from the situation, cases of misconduct are less personal and ergo more professional. Though the system that military personnel find themselves under is far from perfect, it could serve as a model for keeping tabs on cops who abuse power. Instead of having the commanding officer of a district who has a personal connection to the officer in question, a outside, more neutral party should investigate misconduct.
Another question raised by the use of cameras on police is the privacy of people that are being investigated. The moment the person speaks to a police officer, they should know that anything said will be used against them or to assist in the case at hand. Sensitive material in a interview are hardly private and are commonly recorded on paper at the least. People who do not wish to be recorded should have the right to ask for the recording to be turned off and the recording should reflect the interview subject’s desire to do it off camera. Police them selves should have no say in the decision to turn the cameras on or off. This way they can not use it only to their advantage.
The real questions raised pertaining to police with cameras should be how much will this cost and when is the soonest we can being the process. Guidelines should be put in place of course to ensure that the officers do not turn off their camera at a crucial point but the use of these cameras will further protect the individual’s right to person.
Opinion By Andy Diaz