Body cameras have been a growing trend in law enforcement over the past several years. In many cases, these cameras are billed as ways to keep officers accountable by providing a video record of civilian encounters. But these body cameras aren’t just about accountability. Like so many other types of public safety technology, they’re also playing a role in helping officers in difficult situations.
There’s plenty of evidence that body cameras are doing as much good for officers as they are for the public’s confidence in their law enforcement officials.
Providing Evidence Against Criminals
In one case, Bell County, TX found that body cameras were helping them to bring more domestic abusers to justice. The county equipped 300 of their officers with body cameras, and sure enough, fewer domestic violence cases were dismissed. What happened? Well, because of the relationship that exists between many perpetrators and victims of domestic violence, there is a tendency for the victims to recant statements or refuse to cooperate with law enforcement after the fact.
Officers would show up to a domestic violence call, but later on the case would be dismissed when the victim decided not to cooperate. With body cameras, the evidence is captured during the initial call, making it hard to disprove that the violent incident took place. That’s led to a precipitous drop in the number of domestic violence cases being dismissed.
The video doesn’t lie, and that makes it great for providing nearly irrefutable evidence for certain crimes that officers encounter.
In any tense situation, especially those that law enforcement officers face every day, it doesn’t take much for things to deteriorate and a situation to turn violent. This is when serious accidents or mistakes can happen. But body cameras have an interesting effect on interactions between the police and civilians. While officers may be conscious that their actions are being filmed, so are the civilians.
In New Carrollton, MD, police found that when civilians knew they were being recorded, they behaved better, as well. Less combativeness from civilians and accountability for officers is a recipe for fewer dangerous confrontations that can result in accidents and liability for law enforcement agencies.
In fact, complaints against police officers fell by 88% after officers in Rialto, CA began wearing body cameras. Another telling statistic—use of force by Rialto’s officers fell by 60%. Those are incredible statistics, and they point to the positive effects of the body camera on both those wearing them, and those who are being recorded.
Having a record of civilian encounters with police is a step in the right direction for healing divides between police and community members, as well as providing officers with better evidence in many cases.
The role of technology in law enforcement is going to continue to grow as more departments equip their officers with body cameras and other new tech. To learn more about where law enforcement is headed in the coming years, read “Top 5 Law Enforcement Trends Affecting Police in 2017.”