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Cameras have become one the most reliable objects of proof that can be taken to a court case if necessary. Police officers in Rialto, California have become the example for a new trend, police worn body cameras. The California cops were part of a study that measured if body cameras would be an effective tool used to reduce altercations and improve behavior of both citizens and officers. The results proved the cameras to be successful.
According to the Washington Post, police officers were divided into two groups. A control group that did not wear camera and the examined group that had the cameras mounted on their vest. The results of the study showed that reports of misconduct by police officers and citizens improved, and complaints against cops reduced by 90 percent. The success of this experiment has police departments around the United States start thinking of how to implement the device, and what policies and programs should go along with it. One of the major reasons for implementing cameras as part of the uniform is to cut down on the complaints many citizens have of cops such as wrongful tickets, use of excessive force, unlawful pursuits and searches, and officers not showing their proper identification.
On the other side, there are still questions on how and when the cameras will be turned on and by whom; as this will make a big difference. D.C Police for example, has questions of what would happen if police officers can activate and deactivate the cameras at their own discretion. They are not sure how beneficial this would be. However, if cameras are turned on during a whole shift, they believe it might also cause problems related to privacy concerns. In addition to witnesses of a crime that might not want to testify if they know they are being recorded. To address new policies, according to the Washington Post, a Police Complaints Board would like to set a task force to figure out how to put in place regulations that would address those types of concerns.
In Rialto, after the results of the study were published, the chief of police William A. Ferrer seemed to have enough data to support his argument favoring the police body cameras. He even invested on the devices for his whole force. Ferrer stated that by wearing the cameras, police officers followed their code of conduct and rules a bit more, and citizens, knowing that the officers had cameras on them, also behaved better.
However, large police departments that are considering using the cameras might not have the budget for the recording devices. The body worn cameras are as high as $900 each. Commissioner of the New York department addressed this issue by stating that departments that are implementing the cameras are much smaller. New York police force has more than 30,000 officers on its roster, and the price of the cameras might be too high for the department’s budget.
Regardless of the price, Taser International, a company that makes the cameras, stated that since the study in Rialto was published, there has been a high demand for the devices. Oakland, Albuquerque and Fort Worth are some of the cities that are already using the police body cameras. In the coming years the devices might become a standard part of a police uniform, just like cameras mounted on police patrol cars.
By Marcia Villavicencio