Police Body Cameras and Accountability

Police Body Cameras and Accountability

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Issues of police accountability are becoming more prevalent as we have seen in the ‘Black Lives Matters’ campaign that started in the US, but has now spread around the world.  A key part of this has been footage shot by bystanders on phones and posted on various social media platforms.

Video footage from police stations, lockups, watch-houses, and juvenile detention centres has been around for a while. There are a range of issues around transparency and accountability that need to dealt with in managing footage along with what controls and systems are put in place.

The technology is evolving quickly, we have seen dash mounted cameras and motor cycle police with helmet mounted cameras.  Now there is a growing use of body cameras by police services around the world.  While they are useful in gathering evidence; they can also be used in relation to police accountability and transparency.

Police services need to develop clear policies and procedures for the use of body cameras by serving officers.  I suggest the following five points are key principles that need to be included:

  1. Body cameras themselves, the technology that is, must continue to evolve with policy oversight, transparency and accountability being a priority.
  2. Footage from body cameras must be managed by a credible, unbiased 3rd party and posted on line.
  3. Officers must not be allowed to have discretion on what they do, or do not, film.
  4. Police (and their colleagues) must never be allowed to view camera footage before writing their incident reports.
  5. Turning off a body camera should result in an immediate termination for a police officer and banning from law enforcement permanently.
Stephen Hall
Stephen Hall
Lives in Perth, Western Australia.

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