Bronx Personal Injury & Real Estate Blog

Monday, May 16, 2016

Police Forces Expanding Use of Body Cameras

Will the use of body cameras reduce incidents of police misconduct?

Incidents of police misconduct have become a growing concern in the wake of a number of high-profile deaths at the hands of police across the country. Most notable were the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri in 2014, and the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore Maryland in April 2015, deaths that touched off a wave of riots and an ongoing protest movement. While the officer in the Ferguson incident was subsequently vindicated, and trials are pending for 6 Baltimore police officers, these deaths and other incidents of brutality and misconduct have led to demands for the use of body cameras.

Now, many police department's across the Nation say that they intend to expand the use of these devices in the coming summer, when crime rates typically rise. Proponents argue that body cameras will deter misconduct and help to document shootings and other altercations between police and citizens.

However, a variety of factors, including costs concerns and resistance among the rank and file, have slowed the pace of the body camera rollout in a number of city police departments. In particular, police argue that processing, reviewing and storing potentially vast amounts of digital footage will require more resources and involve substantial costs. In order for these departments to pay for the technology, they will need to rely on money from the federal government that has yet to be made available.

"I would suspect we're woefully short," said James Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police. "They make these lofty pronouncements and then they don't put their money where their mouth is."

Meanwhile, a recent AP report found that only 17 percent of the Chicago police force have been issued body cameras, 5 percent in Philadelphia and 6 percent in Houston. Closer to home, the New York Police Department, which is the largest city force in the Nation, intends to purchase 1,000 cameras by the summer, which will only equip 3 percent of its 34,000 officers. Over in Nassau County, the police officers' union reportedly halted a pilot program last year because the department imposed the plan without negotiating.

In addition, some civil rights groups are concerned with how the police intend to use the cameras and that privacy and the potential of civil rights violations have not been addressed.

"The jury's still out on whether cameras are a useful tool in reducing excessive force in policing. We're also concerned cameras can be used as tools of surveillance and increase racial profiling," said Sakira Cook, legal counsel for the Washington-based Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Whether body cameras will help to reduce incidents of police misconduct, or be misused as surveillance tools, remains to be seen. In the meantime, if you were injured in an altercation with the police, a personal injury attorney can help you obtain financial compensation.

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