People who have been fed up the past several months with the string of incidents in which police officers have used excessive force against unarmed black men and women will be relieved to hear that at least a dozen police departments across the nation are beginning to equip their officers with video cameras, the New York Times reports.
That’s right. Miami Beach spent $3 million on cameras for its police officers and other enforcement workers and inspectors.
The New York City Police Department is in the planning phases of a pilot project that will require officers to wear body cameras. It’s taking notes from Los Angeles’ model, which also made use of body cameras.
All municipal police departments in New Jersey are now required by law to have car-mounted or body-worn cameras.
These cities, in addition to others including Ferguson, Mo.; Flagstaff, Ariz.; Minneapolis; Norfolk, Va.; and Washington, D.C., are increasing accountability among their law-enforcement officials as well as protecting themselves from liability.
“Liability-conscious city attorneys say the cameras could help in lawsuits,” the Times explains. “Rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say police accountability will be bolstered by another layer of public documentation.”
The Justice Department put a microscope on police departments that already use body cameras and found that both officers and individuals stopped would be more likely to be on their best behavior if both parties knew they were being filmed. “[T]he Justice Department, surveying 63 police departments that were using body cameras and many others that were not,” the Times reports, “concluded in a report this month [pdf] that the technology had the potential to ‘promote the perceived legitimacy and sense of procedural justice’ in interactions between the public and law enforcement.”
The cameras have some people leery, however. The Times pondered how cameras would work in states like Oregon, where, by law, you have to notify an individual before you’re allowed to film them. “Would that mean officers wearing body cameras have to yell warnings—‘You’re being recorded!’—as they run into violent situations?” the Times wondered.
There’s also concern about how police departments—many of them already strapped for personnel hours—will go about archiving the hundreds of hours of film recorded.
Also, the Times notes that some “police unions worry that videos could become tools of management, used by higher-ups to punish an officer they do not like.”
Read more at the New York Times.