Most of my twenty some years in law enforcement were spent in the narcotics division. In this sector, your author was assigned to conduct high-risk warrants, search warrants and “buy busts,” which is the task of boxing in a vehicle or chasing a suspect on foot. Towards the tail end of my time spent in narcotics, the idea of body cameras reared its ugly head. Mostly every, if not all members of this unit stated they would boycott this initiative because the purpose, in their minds, was a reason to fire or even arrest the Officers who was wearing a body cam. I guess at some degree I felt as though this could be an issue, especially when you are serving rapidly developing, unpredictable and extremely dangerous warrants. I never got to experience the implementation of said body cams as I was transferred to Internal Affairs / Special Investigations Divisions a few months later.
Now, being in this position for the past (2) two years, I can say without any wavering that body cameras in law enforcement are a God sent. In these past (2) two years, I have able to successfully debunk numerous police allegations including police brutality, theft and a sexual assault. Body cameras have become such a defense against such allegations that I make it a practice to immediately inform any/all complainants that if their account of any officer misconduct is found to be false that the complainant will be charged accordingly. Secondly, I then inform the complainant that the entire event he/she is complaining about was captured on police body camera. This information given to complainants almost, always weeds out fictitious or frivolous complaints against the police. Not only do these cameras provide security to law enforcement as far as allegations but they also serve as a support in many other avenues of this profession. These cameras, in my experience provide unbiased evidence in assaults, Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Vehicle Pursuits, disorderly individuals, medical calls and a host of other issues police deal with on a regular basis. The footage collected in the above incident isn’t just valuable for capturing a crime that occurred however, retains valuable “excited utterances” which cannot be recanted later on down the line. Also, these cameras can be extremely valuable with the ability to revisit a crime scene. In the event something may have been overlooked or just plain missed by investigators, the body camera footage may aid in going back and reviewing any footage caught on the camera(s), revealing new evidence.
On the flip side, and hopefully this is a rare occurrence, body camera footage can also identify an officer’s poor behavior. Before the advent of body cameras, any citizen(s) complaint against an Officer basically resolved itself as a “he said, she said.” Although all of these complaints aren’t substantiated, the few rogue officers in law enforcement weren’t held accountable do to a lack of evidence. Now, with the luxury of body cameras, administration can review an officer’s actions, especially those who are constantly complained about.
In closing, I am a huge proponent of police worn body cameras. As I’ve previously stated, I have found these body cameras to be beneficial to law enforcement in many avenues within this profession. Especially in today’s unfortunate “lack of trust” in law enforcement, body cameras provide a transparent view into any incident where the officer’s actions come into question. It is my belief, every law enforcement agency across the United States should be equipped with body worn cameras.