I am frequently asked about body worn cameras for police. Do we use them? Are we going to them? That is a very challenging question, more than is apparent on its face. Body worn cameras are seen by many advocates as a method for police accountability. But it isn’t that simple. It is also, and maybe more importantly, a method of government surveillance in both public and private places. Right now most police use dashboard cameras and the officers wear microphones. The big difference is that the camera is attached to the car and only records in PUBLIC places where the car is located. Not in someone’s home.
The public records laws make that video available to anyone who asks. So if a police officer came to your home and you answered personal questions as a part of their investigation, all of that video would be available. Is that really what we want?
I’ve included a link to an excellent article from the New York Times on this topic. It details the experience of the Seattle Police Department with a body worn camera test and their interaction with a citizen who thought he wanted to expose these videos with few if any restrictions. You can see some of their videos on YouTube now if you search. It doesn’t seem as though he found what he expected to find. You can form your own opinion.