Recentdevelopments in the field of law enforcement combined withtechnological inventions have enabled the use of technologicalgadgets such as the body camera in law enforcement. A body camerasalso called body worn video (BWV) is video surveillance system thatis used by law enforcement officers to observe and document theinteractions they have with members of the public as they performtheir duties (Scalise, 2013). The camera can also be used to collectvisual evidence at crime scenes. Unlike dashboard cameras, the bodycamera is attached to the officer’s clothes, and they go with itwhenever they go. Body cameras have advantages and disadvantages thatneed to be explored to increase their use and acceptability.
Prosand Cons of
Startingwith the pros, body cameras have some benefits when they are used bylaw enforcement officers. According to Scalise (2013), one of thebiggest benefits of cameras is the prevention of violence. Comparedto the times before their use in law enforcement, body cameras seemto reduce the use of excessive force and violence. This applies bothto the police officer and the civilians they interact with. In thepresence of a body camera, a police officer or a civilian is likelyto avoid a violent confrontation. The reason is that the videorecorded by the body camera can be used to persecute an officer whoassaults a citizen and vice versa.
Theother benefit of body cameras is promoting accountability in lawenforcement. Body cameras monitor the actions of police officers,facilitating the monitoring of all they do in the line of duty,whether good or bad. Consequently, law enforcement is done in a moreaccountable manner preventing crimes such as bribing of officers andunlawful arrest of suspects (Scalise, 2013). The public is also awareof what happens at all times by viewing the recorded footage.
Bodycameras, on a positive note, help facilitate the involvement of thepublic perception of law enforcement (White, 2014). The footagerecorded using body cameras enable the public to see the human sideof law enforcement. Without the cameras, it would have beenimpossible for the public to see what happens in different scenariosof law enforcement. This benefit is eye opening. It creates a newattitude towards law enforcement in members of the public. They arenow able to see the human side of police work and appreciate theroles played by law enforcement agents.
Onthe flip side, body cameras also have several drawbacks that impedetheir use and acceptance. The biggest issue that comes to light inthis aspect is the ever controversial topic of privacy in the use ofbody comes (Surette, 2014). Many opponents of this system argue thatbody cams are an invasion of people’s privacy. They insist thatwhen it is not necessary to record or monitor anything, the bodycameras still daily actions of the law enforcement officers and themembers of the public. Since the footage collected by body cameras isowned by the state, civilians who may not be part of an arrest end upin the videos recorded by the body cameras and stored in policedatabases.
Theother disadvantage that comes with body cameras is the policylimitations on when and where the cameras should be used (Scalise,2013). Typically, body cameras should only be used by police officerswhen they are interacting with the public. However, in the field, thetask of turning the camera on and off is the responsibility of theofficer carrying it. As a result, this saturation creates loopholesand limitation in the use of these cameras. For instance, the cameramight be off when it should be on, potentially missing to record amoment that would have been useful in law enforcement. The oppositeis also true. This situation creates limitations in the practical useof body cameras.
PotentialLegal Issues in the Use of
Basedon current policies, police officers have the authority to turn thecameras off and on whenever they deem necessary (Robinson, 2007).This policy potentially takes away the control that police officershave over their body cameras. This creates a legal issue of strikingthe balance between the authority over the cameras and the usabilityof the cameras in fighting crime. Changes to the current policiessuggest that the cameras should be on all the time. However, thiswould create a situation where the cameras are used at times andplaces they are not necessary, increasing the invasion of privacyclaims that impede the usage of these cameras.
Basedon the legal and policy issues facing the use of body cameras, thedisparities between technology and the legal system comes to light.Technological advancements have made it possible for police officersto have tiny cameras in their clothes and sunglasses (White, 2014).Technology provides the legal system with an innovative way offighting crime and gathering evidence. However, the legal challengesassociated with the cameras such as the invasion of privacy anddebate on their usage. Clearly, technology seems to be progressingfaster than the legal system. This is because the legal system doesnot appear to create an efficient legal environment to facilitate theuse to technology such as body cameras in criminology.
Bodycameras are a timely intervention that has several benefits for lawenforcement. Their benefits include preventing violence and promotingaccountability in law enforcement. Drawbacks such as the invasion ofprivacy, however, water down these benefits. Legal issues facingthese cameras such as when they should be used should be used toutilize their potential in crime monitoring, prevention andprosecution fully.
Robinson,E. M. (2007). Crimescene photography.Amsterdam: Elsevier/AP.
Scalise,F. (2013). Policebody cameras: What are the obstacles to implementing their use, andwhat is their impact?.S. l.: Frank Scalise.
Surette,R. (2014). Media,crime, and criminal justice.
White,M. D. (2014). Police officer body-worn cameras: Assessing theevidence. Washington,DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.