Body cameras utilize by police officers have been available to police departments worldwide since 2005 but have not become popular in the United States until 2014. Since 2014, there has been a push for police departments across the nation to adopt a body camera program within their agencies. Community leaders and community members believe if there is more transparency within police departments by utilizing body cameras, it would benefit the community. Police departments agree that there is a benefit to implementing a body camera program but have reservations due to the benefits outweighing the cost to implement such a program. Police departments that implement a body camera program with a strict and effective policy would reduce use of force complaints and citizen complaints, by being transparent and holding both police officers and citizens accountable for their actions. A body camera program can be cost effective by utilizing government grants and working with manufacturers to eliminate cost as being the reason why most agencies do not want to pay for such a program.
Implementation of a body camera program will help improve police and community relations by being transparent and holding police officers and citizens accountable for their actions. The implementation of a body camera program with a strict and effective policy will reduce use of force complaints and citizen complaints. One study showed “50 percent fewer incidents of force being used while the officers were wearing body cameras,“ (Ariel 2016). That same study also showed “there was a 90 percent reduction in citizens’ complaints against police officers,” (Ariel 2016). In a separate study, politicians were reviewing how body cameras could assist with police reform due to recent events that have transpired in the United States. That study showed “Police body cameras can help reduce the kind of bogus stops that have fueled accusations of racial bias and harassment against police officers,” (Southall 2020). Investigations into any complaints where a body camera was utilized, are handled more efficient with video proof of the incident. Another aspect which is hardly ever discussed is the ability to utilize the video footage from an incident to conduct a proper review and implement training to police officers if needed due to behaviors being observed.
The two main obstacles when implementing a body camera program is cost and storage. New Orleans Police Department paid 1.2 million dollars to start their program. “There are the initial camera costs, with each camera running about $1,000, but the storage costs are where the real expense comes in,” (Kotowski 2016). The New Orleans Police Department initial cost did not include yearly storage cost, maintenance, repair cost, and support personnel. For most agencies, purchasing the body cameras themselves is not expensive but the infrastructure and maintaining such a program is very expensive. Footage from body cameras must be stored somewhere, the usual option is to purchase cloud storage to store that video footage. Taking a police department of two hundred officers with every officer having a body camera and using that camera during every work shift creates a very large amount of data. On average, “it would cost about $100 a month in storage costs for each camera. With 200 cameras, that adds up to $20,000 a month,” (Kotowski 2016). When all those cameras need to upload the video from the police department to the cloud, the infrastructure of the police department must have the ability to do that task. Police departments must then hire personnel to redact all video footage when a public request for that video is granted.
Studies have shown that police departments that implement a strict and effective policy when adopting a body camera program, will benefit police departments, community leaders, and community member within their communities. Police departments should see a reduction in use of force complaints, citizen complaints, and accusations of being racially bias. Police departments will benefit in developing young officers by utilizing video footage as an effective training tool. Cost to implement a body camera program can be reduced by utilizing government grants and RICO money. It is imperative for agencies to conduct research into their needs and growth prior to adopting a body camera program to ensure their needs are met and their cost can be managed. It is important for police departments, community leaders and community members to make this decision together since it will directly affect their relationships and the money paid by the taxpayer within that community.
Moving forward, I see the majority if not all, of the police departments within the United States implementing a body worn camera program.
Ariel, B. (2016). The Puzzle of Police Body Cams. IEEE Spectrum, Spectrum, IEEE, IEEE Spectr, 53(7), 32-37. The puzzle of police body cams: Full Text Finder Results (snhu.edu)
Kotowski, J. (2016, March 6). Body-Cameras a Worthwhile but Expensive Tool, Law Enforcement Says, Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, CA). Business Insights: Global (snhu.edu)
Southall, A. (2020, December 1). Police Body Cameras Called “Powerful Tool.” The New York Times. Business Insights: Global (snhu.edu)