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Apr 19
Last Updated on 08 April 2019

Using a Police Body Camera on the Job

It is well known that the American police have a dangerous and risky job, and officers undergo a lot of training to make them disciplined and effective law enforcement agents. However, danger may go both ways. Some civilians have been known to injure or even murder police officers on the job, and in other cases, police officers may exercise an abuse of power or force and cause injury or death to a civilian with whom they are interacting. There have been well-known cases either way, but today, police cam technology is working hard to reduce this. A police cam may be mounted either on their cruiser’s dashboard, such as dash cams, or they may wear body cameras on the job. Both models of police cams may do a fine job to record what is happening during an officer’s shift, and this may offer evidence of what happened during a police officer’s shift during a court of law. If a civilian is accused of assaulting an officer, or if an officer may face disciplinary actions for excessive force, the footage provided by a police cam may settle the case.

The Use of Police Cams

This is a fairly new concept, and within the last 20 years, the use of police body cams has increased considerably. Many surveys and interviews have been done, often by the Pew Research Center, with police officers and civilians alike to see what they think of these police cams. The responses have been largely positive, and similarly, the use of police cams has climbed over the last 15 years or so. Back in 2000, about 11% of all state police and highway patrol vehicles had in-car cameras, or about 3,400 of them. By now, estimates say that closer to 72% of them have in-car video camera systems, with or without the officer using a body camera to augment them. Many surveyed police officers have expressed concern about the increasing dangers of the job, and the New Research Center found that 93% of 8,000 surveyed officers felt this way.

However, the increased use of police cameras and dashboard cameras may help reverse this trend, and some trends suggest that such cameras played a role. For example, a recent evaluation of body cameras done in Rialto, California’s police department found a 60% drop in the use of force on officers’ part. Similarly, many surveyed civilians and police officers alike have shown confidence in the use of body and dash cameras to reduce violent incident rates. A Pew Research Center surveyed found that 50% of officers were confident that body cameras would make the police act more appropriately on the job. In a similar vein, some 52% of surveyed police department administrators said that police body cameras will make the public more likely to cooperate with officers. And a 2015 study also showed that officers who wear such cameras were 25.2% more likely to consider those devices helpful during their interactions with civilians. And finally, a recent study revealed that police who have body cameras on them receive 93% fewer complaints from the public, a considerable drop. What are the advantages of each dash cams and body cams?

The Right Police Cameras for the Job

A dash cam is important for an officer’s work because this camera is stable on the police cruiser’s dashboard, and it is protected by the windshield. This camera is unlikely to be damaged or knocked askew during its work, and its wide field of vision allows it to capture a large scene to include both the police officer and the civilian party. This can make a clear image of what is happening during any interaction, whether peaceful or aggravated. However, it is possible for someone to step out of the camera’s field of view, some officers may also use body cams. These offer more limited fields of view, but the officer may move and turn to point the camera at anything that they need, such as during a pursuit or if people are moving around a lot. Footage from one or both type of cameras may prove useful during a court of law where either the civilian or officer is accused of undue violence on their part.

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