Thursday, October 29, 2015

Police Body Cameras; Political movement or next Technological Step?

            After riots and protests that crippled the city of Baltimore due to the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, the Mayor, Stephany Rawlings-Blake, announced a pilot program for Baltimore City Police Department to test out three different types of body cameras. After nearly a dozen bids, the three companies selected to test are TaserInternational Inc., Atlantic Tactical Inc. and Brekford Corp.
These companies are creating low weight, durable and high resolution (as high as 1920x1080) video cameras with a memory range of 16-32GB. These cameras, depending on resolution, can store hours of film. They are also easily ably to transfer saved memory to smart phones, tablets and other computers via WiFi. By placing a camera either attached to glasses or on the front of the uniform, these cameras also have the ability to live stream with a lenses curved at 95 degrees to prevent fish-eye distortion
            One officer, Hanna Parrish, who volunteered to be a part of this says, “It will ensure fairness on each side. And if there is ... stuff that's going wrong that needs to be fixed ... it will hold everyone a little more accountable.” The article explains how having film from before and after a conflict happens can better explain the situation. It also explains Baltimore City resident Kenneth Betts’ opinion that these cameras can prevent police custody deaths, preventing another victim like Freddie Gray. In another article, the message of President Obama is expressed as not only supporting the usage of cameras, but wishes to expand them to every officer.
            Something that could be beneficial is the fact that evidence in a criminal cases can be presented more clearly; however, there is not yet any official protocol for how the cameras should be handled by the police. Also, because this data can be sent to smartphone, it is also easily transferred by email and text. Once on a computer, the film could be easily altered or submitted to Facebook, Twitter or YouTube; potentially causing a security problem if delicate information is released. Furthermore, just because the camera is there, does not mean that everything is being recorded. Due to the fact all three cameras have battery lives of only a couple hours and can only hold a couple hours’ worth of film memory, there is a chance that officers are unable to record events in their entirety or not at all; crime won’t stop just because a camera is not charged.

            Although it is unclear the cost of implementing these cameras. President Obama’s plan to purchase them is estimated to cost around $75 Million for 50,000 cameras. With an estimate 1,001,984 police officers in the US, the cost to store any relevant videos data, especially due to the length of trials in the US, would cost the Government millions more. In the end, people may win because the criminal process may be simplified, but everything has a cost; it will likely lead to an increase in taxes.

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  1. Although police body cameras may seem like a good idea, I think it would be a waste of money. It would be too expensive to implement them everywhere. Also, cameras are not reliable 100% of the time. Just like you said, a camera could run out of space and also its battery could die. They also aren't completely durable. Some officers might forget to turn them on and some probably won't turn them on at all. Just because a police officer wears a camera does not mean he will obey the policies. He also might act different because he knows he’s being filmed. This idea invades the privacy of both police officers and civilians. Who will have access to the footage? It seems like a lot of extra work to go through all the footage. Video evidence can always be edited. A lot of evidence of police brutality is filmed anyway. Body cameras could increase the distrust of police officers and the popularity of police brutality. If we want to prevent future events like the "Freddie Gray Incident", we should just obey the law, report any misbehavior we see, and stop racial profiling.

  2. I believe that this is a good idea that should be implemented in the future. In this day and age, police brutality and abuse are continuously being aired on the news. With a camera in place, officers will feel the need to act different by obeying the policies. In time, that same officer acting differently because of a camera will succumb to obeying the policies. Police stations can charge the cameras overnight and give them to the officers the following day to cancel out the excuse that a battery died or doesn't turn on. If a police officer turns off the battery while out in the field, the officer can face a fine or something along those lines. This information should be used to judge how each officer acts in the field and can serve as a monthly progress report. It can also be used if an incident happened. Trials such as Trayvon Martin would have been easier to judge if a camera had been set in place. I read in an interview some police officers aren't even trained to use guns, they just have to pass a simple shooting test. We are giving people guns, and the police always have the upper hand when it comes to presenting what happened at the scene of the time. It is time to level the field and let the camera speak for itself.


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