The Future of Body Worn Cameras in Law Enforcement
Currently there are only seven states, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Carolina, that mandate statewide use of body worn cameras by law enforcement officers. Certainly, my agency, The Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, in Pueblo County, Colorado, is no different. In Colorado, a new law was just passed, Colorado Senate Bill 20-217, which requires all law enforcement agencies in Colorado to equip every Peace Officer with a body worn camera by July 1, 2023. The law states, in partial, as follows:
SENATE BILL 20-217
BY JULY 1, 2023, ALL LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES IN THE STATE AND THE COLORADO STATE PATROL SHALL PROVIDE BODY-WORN CAMERAS FOR EACH PEACE OFFICER OF THE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY WHO INTERACTS WITH MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC. LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES MAY SEEK FUNDING PURSUANT TO SECTION 24-33.5-519.
(II) (A) EXCEPT AS PROVIDED IN SUBSECTION (1)(a)(II)(B) OR (1)(a)(II)(C) OF THIS SECTION, A PEACE OFFICER SHALL WEAR AND ACTIVATE A BODY-WORN CAMERA OR DASH CAMERA, IF THE PEACE OFFICER’S VEHICLE IS EQUIPPED WITH A DASH CAMERA, WHEN RESPONDING TO A CALL FOR SERVICE OR DURING ANY INTERACTION WITH THE PUBLIC INITIATED BY THE PEACE OFFICER, WHETHER CONSENSUAL OR NONCONSENSUAL, FOR THE PURPOSE OF ENFORCING THE LAW OR INVESTIGATING POSSIBLE VIOLATIONS OF THE LAW.
The law also states if a Peace Officer fails to activate their body worn camera or tampers with their body worn camera, there is permissive inference of misconduct by the Peace Officer. This could lead to a host of problems from inadmissible statements in a court hearing, to the Peace Officer receiving discipline up to and including termination.
Even though Colorado just passed Senate Bill 20-217, my agency has been using body worn cameras for several years now. Since implementing the use of body worn cameras within my agency, body worn cameras have been an invaluable tool for deputies and administrators. The body worn camera has improved deputy/citizen interactions by promoting transparency between my agency and the citizens we serve, body worn cameras provide valuable evidence for court proceedings, they also reduce the time spent investigating citizen complaints.
Most people in my community know our deputies are equipped with body worn cameras. The cameras are easily visible on the deputy’s uniform. The use of body worn cameras promotes transparency by allowing Administrators, the Courts, and the public to see exactly what happened during an incident. This type of transparency fosters trust in the community with its law enforcement agency.
Body camera footage may be used as corroborating evidence in a court proceeding. In court proceedings where body camera footage is entered as evidence, the jury is able to see and hear exactly what the deputy saw and heard during the incident which helps prevent confusion. The use body camera footage tends to increase guilty pleas in court cases by providing indisputable facts.
During an internal investigation where a complaint on a deputy has been made by the public, body worn camera footage is a very good tool used by investigators. A lot of times after an investigator has watched the body camera footage of an accused deputy, the investigator is able to quickly find the complaint sustained, not sustained, unfounded or exonerated.
My agency currently uses the Axon Body 3 body worn camera. Axon is an up and coming company that develops technology, tasers, body cameras, and other weapon products for the military, law enforcement and civilians. The Axon Body 3 camera is a high definition body worn camera that has enhanced low light performance, reduced motion blur and enhanced LTE connection. Below are of some of the other features of Axon Body 3 camera:
Axon Signal Sidearm – A small wireless device that attaches to the deputy/officers existing duty holster. When the deputy/officer draws their duty issued sidearm, Axon signal automatically actives the deputy/officers Axon Body 3 camera. This is a great feature for high stress situations when a deputy/officer has to quickly draw their duty weapon, eliminating the need to manually activate their body worn camera, allowing them to focus on the threat in front of them.
Axon Signal Vehicle – Technology that automatically activates a deputy/officer Axon Body 3 worn cameras when that deputy/officer is in close range of a patrol car that has activated its overhead lights, eliminating the need to manually active the camera. Again, allowing the deputy/officer to focus on the incident, not having to worry if they activated their body worn camera.
Axon Response – Technology that can give Supervisors and/or Command alerts, when a weapon is deployed, and the ability to livestream into a deputy/officers Axon Body 3 camera and see exactly what the deputy/officer is seeing in real time. This feature also is able to locate the deputy/officer and provide support if need be.
To conclude, because the public is continually wanting transparency in law enforcement, I believe the future of body worn cameras in law enforcement is here to stay. I believe in the near future; all 50 states will mandate all law enforcement agencies equip their Peace Officers with body worn cameras. Because Axon is constantly developing new technology to improve their body worn cameras for law enforcement, and arguably the company that provides body worn cameras to most agencies, I believe Axon will lead other body worn camera companies in the race of information and technology.