Since Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of the Federal District Court in Manhattan ordered police officers in certain precincts to wear tiny cameras when dealing with the public, other police departments throughout the country have begun to follow suit. Recently, Georgia police departments have considered implementing these cameras.
Both the public and the police stand to benefit from widespread use of body cameras.
A fellow from Cambridge University conducted a study in 2012-2013, in cooperation with the Rialto California Police Department, to determine the effects of body cameras on interactions between the police and the public. Over the course of the study, half of all police shifts included officers wearing body cameras. The results are striking. Shifts without cameras experienced twice as many incidents of use of force by officers as shifts with cameras. Complaints against officers were also reduced drastically; the department received nearly ten times more complaints in the year prior to the study than they received during the study.
The awareness that they are on camera may also affect the manner in which individuals interact with the police, causing them to be more cooperative and less likely to become violent, which ultimately protects the officer.
The cameras will also lead to better evidence. For example, video evidence helps with statements from domestic abuse victims. Rialto Sergeant Josh Lindsay explained, "by the time [domestic violence] cases get to court often things have cooled down and the victim retracts [his or her statement]. However, with the video you see her with a bloody lip. There's nothing lost in translation."
Critics of the cameras point primarily to the costs of implementing the cameras. Gwinnett County Police Department explains that the high cost of the cameras is the reason the department has not enforced their use. Corporal Jake Smith, a Gwinnett County Police Department spokesman, noted that they do not have dash cameras on every police car for this reason. This is short-sighted because one lawsuit could cost the county far more than the cost of the cameras.
Marietta Police Department has declined to purchase body cameras because of a different aspect of the costs. Officer David Baldwin pointed out that storing video footage on the city's computer server would also have high expenses.
So far in Georgia, Atlanta Police Department has spent the last two months testing the cameras, and the Department reports that the results have been promising. Cobb County's Police Department has already purchased 40 body cameras for its police officers.
Increased competition is expected to bring the costs of the cameras down. Hopefully, we will see more Georgia police departments implementing this measure intended to protect the police and the public.
As an Atlanta DUI Lawyer, it is my hope that all encounters with the police are on video in near future.