Over the past several months the news has frequently highlighted acts of police misconduct, as well as police officers being attacked and killed. It cannot be disputed that the vast majority of police officers are diligent, hard-working public servants who seek to protect and serve. There are few, however, that go too far and commit the sort of acts which have resulted in public outcry. Police misconduct has been revealed by bystanders recording the use of excessive force. Many have called for a mandatory requirement that all police officers wear body cams to record their actions and conduct with the public.
The accuracy of a visual recording of a confrontation is affected by several factors including the angle of the camera, lighting conditions and whether the recording captures the entire event. When considering whether the action of a police officer is justified or amounts to excessive force, it is necessary to observe the situation as seen by the officer. Examples of this have been shown on local TV news. A camera which is behind or at an angle to the officer may see an officer pull a gun or take some other violent action even though the camera angle does not reveal that the officer has just seen the person in front of him draw a gun or pull a knife. Likewise, a bystander who visually records an incident already in progress may not capture aggressive action by a person resisting arrest or by a police officer instigating an incident.
There can be no doubt that a police officer might be thrust into a stressful and dangerous situation at any time. Likewise, a citizen may be confronted by a police officer who is acting unreasonably or aggressively for no reason. In either case, if the public and the police know the officer is wearing a body cam, there is a strong likelihood that all concerned will act reasonably. Studies have shown that police officers wearing body cams have a positive effect not only on the police, but also the public. Body cams can also protect police officers from false accusations of excessive force.
While a visual recording taken from the officer’s perspective may not reveal all of the action, it will present strong evidence to be considered by those who must judge the conduct later and will foster proper behavior between police and citizens. The benefit of police wearing body cams far outweighs the financial expense of purchasing and operating the body cams. It is time to recognize the importance of police body cams and for government and police departments to fund the costs involved in providing each police officer a body cam and necessary equipment to preserve the recordings. It is also time for the federal government to assist local governments in bearing the costs of providing each police officer with a body cam.
Law Offices of Mark L. Horwitz, P.A.
17 East Pine St.
Orlando, FL 32801