More police departments are looking into the idea of outfitting officers with recording devices in the wake of the events in Ferguson, Missouri. Many proponents of the cameras say they’ll keep officers and civilians on their best behavior, but others wonder if the constant recording is an invasion of privacy. Legislators also want to discuss who has access to the recordings once they’re filed.
“Where is that data stored?”asked Democratic state Rep. Elaine Nekritz. “How much of it is kept (and) for how long? And then who has access to it? Does the media have access to every interaction?”
The discussion will also be used to help write eavesdropping legislation in the near future. Earlier this year the Illinois Supreme Court rejected an eavesdropping proposal after the law was deemed too broad.
Rep. Nekritz outlined some more talking points that will be discussed Friday.
“Everything from: when is the camera on? Do the police have to give notice to everyone that they talk to that they’re recording? Are there some conversations that are protected? If you have a victim of domestic violence that is interacting with a policeman, does that have to be recorded,” Nekritz said.
Other departments across the nation have adopted police body cameras, and the early reports show that they have been successful in preventing conflict and complaints. The Rialto Police Department in California equipped each officer with body cameras, and an analysis of department data uncovered a 50 percent drop in the total number of use-of-force incidents and a ten-fold reduction in the number of citizen complains in the 12 months following their adoption.
Brett Appelman comments
The prospect of being recorded keeps everyone on their best behavior because they don’t want to be seen or caught in a negative light. Not only would cameras remind people to act more civilized, the recording would act as a third party observer. Far too often cases come down to he said-she said arguments, and without a neutral witness, it can be hard to discern who is telling the truth.
Based on everything I’ve heard about body cameras, it sounds as if the question is more “When will police get them” than “Will police get them?” The equipment, storage, processing and review doesn’t come cheap, but it’s an investment that would easily pay for itself in terms of a reduction of lawsuits against police. Considering the Chicago Police Department paid out $500 million in settlements over the last decade, the cameras would likely pay for themselves countless times over.
Related source: Daily Herald, Northern Public Radio