With more and more police departments purchasing body cameras and adopting policies that officers wear these cameras at all times when on duty, one is left wondering what will the effects on the criminal justice system be?

Departments that have implemented the use of body cameras have achieved staggering results.  The police department in the city of Rialto, in San Bernardino County have experienced a decrease in public complaints against its officers by 88 percent. Use of force by officers in that department has likewise decreased by 60 percent. These staggering numbers can be attributed to the fact that officers who wear these cameras know they are being watched, thus act more “in line with the norm.” Thus, these statistics show that these cameras can have the effect of making police officers fall in line with department policies and expectations, or make it easier to get rid of the bad cops on the streets.

Since the effects on the police departments can be vast, one must be left to ask the question, would the same types of results be reached in the courtroom? Presumably, the video evidence would be hard to dispute, thus there could be a vast effect on an increase in criminal convictions and in defendant plea bargains. This can effectively replace a police officer’s testimony, or his or her written report about what occurred, and gives both attorneys, not just the prosecution, a video to show the jury. This could affect any interaction by police officers, ranging from whether an officer had a defendant’s consent, thus foregoing the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a warrant to complete a search on a suspect, to a simple dispute as to whether the defendant was indeed slurring his speech after he was pulled over for a suspected DUI.

Therefore, body cameras such as the Axon Body Camera by Taser, which sell for $399 individually (presumably departments can buy in bulk and get these at a discount), are proving to have an enormous impact on both departments and as its use spreads, the effects should be felt in their totality on the criminal justice system.

William Roberts

One Response to Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do When the Police Cam Catches You?

  1. Danielle Drago says:

    While I recognize the immense value that video cameras will have in the courtroom, I worry that police officers will be more hesitant to exert any type of necessary force due to worries that they are being watched. While it certainly will cause renegade police officers to “fall in line,” these cameras may have the unintended effect of deterring officers in the line of fire from responding adequately, putting themselves and their constituents in danger. I will be interested in how the use of cameras in police forces proceeds!