Police should use body cameras for safety and complaints


Graphic by Ryan Ekstrand

Cory Spawn, Broadcast Managing Editor

After the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown, police departments are looking into purchasing body cameras to capture video of what happens away from the dash cam in the car.  There is no reason other than money that should stop departments from buying these beneficial cameras to keep officers safe and get the real truth of what happens when a situation occurs.  Body cameras should be used by all officers.

Body cameras are usually a small black box about the size of an Altoids tin that is clipped onto an officer’s chest.  They are not always recording, however, if the officer thinks they could be going into a dangerous situation, he can turn the camera on and it will record whatever the officer sees.  If something were to happen, the police department could go back and watch the video for evidence.  Obama has plans that need to be passed by Congress to purchase 50,000 cameras for police departments all over the US.

With the use of these cameras, if something were to happen, either by the suspect or officer, police departments will be able to go back and watch the video from the officer’s perspective. This sometimes shows something the dash cam in their car cannot see.

To some people, this seems like another way for the government to have surveillance on innocent citizens that have done nothing wrong. This is not true because the camera will only record when the officer presses the record button.

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Some officers using the cameras have turned off the camera before they did something the suspect claims happened.  This can be a problem because the police department has no evidence of the officer’s actions.

When this happens, the officer clearly did something they should not have and should be used against them if they go to trial for the incident because they were trying to hide something.

The other potential issue with them is that anyone can go to the police department and ask to see the video from any incident since is it a part of a public service.

This could be a problem if an officer goes to a call of domestic violence or something similar that should stay confidential.  If someone was in a situation the officer had a video of, anyone could go and request to see it, giving them a view of someone’s private life, which should stay between them and the police.  Laws should be written to protect people recorded by body cameras to prevent issues like this from occurring.

The Minneapolis Police Department is currently working on integrating cameras with many of their officers and is currently working on a list of guidelines and regulations for the use of them.  The City of Duluth has been using them and has had no serious issues and many officers are saying they really like them.  The City of Oak Park Heights currently has no plans of purchasing any at this time.  Bayport’s police department had one officer testing one, and he did not like it because it fell off his uniform and got in the way.

With any new technology, there will be some skepticism as seen with these cameras, but in the end the benefits outweigh the issues, and all police departments that can afford them should invest in them to keep their officers safe, and at the same time, reduce the number of complaints they have to deal with.